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Visitors run for cover in an alcove leading in to the Embassy Suits as the sky opens up drenching Marion Square as severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for most of the Charleston area as a line of powerful storms barreled across the coast Friday, April 19, 2019. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

A series of strong thunderstorms toppled trees and cut off power to thousands in South Carolina on Friday after a weather system moved rapidly across the state.

Staff with National Weather Service offices in Charleston and Columbia said damage reports were still being received Friday night and that a more complete picture of the storms' impact would not be available until Saturday. 

But a picture of the impact was starting to come together.

Jonathan Lamb, a meteorologist with the Weather Service's Charleston office, said he and his colleagues noted a high number of reports of downed trees and some damaged buildings.  

"This is one of the biggest (severe thunderstorm) events we've dealt with over the last 10 years," Lamb said. 

In the Midlands, teams will be sent on Saturday to investigate possible tornado damage in Orangeburg, Lee, Sumter, Clarendon, Calhoun and Newberry counties, the Weather Service's Columbia office said.

As of Friday night, the Weather Service had not confirmed any tornadoes touching down in South Carolina.

Showers and storms started moving in to the Charleston area shortly after sunrise with adverse conditions moving rapidly up the coast through the afternoon hours. Strong winds and heavy rain lashed some areas but moved on quickly.

Multiple government agencies, schools and other businesses or offices closed their doors in anticipation of Friday's weather. 

Charleston city and county offices, libraries and parks closed at 2 p.m. as did Trident Technical College and schools. State government offices announced early closings in a number of counties.

At one point, more than 20,000 South Carolina Electric and Gas customers in Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Beaufort and Colleton counties were without power, according to the utility company. 

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A fallen tree down blocks two lanes at International Boulevard and Firestone Road heading towards Montague Avenue in North Charleston. Provided

An SCE&G spokesperson said she could not provide an estimate for when power would be restored and that crews would work as quickly was possible when it was safe for them to do so.

By early Friday night, Charleston County had a little over 2,000 SCE&G customers without power. Remaining outages were as follows: Berkeley County had 201, Dorchester County had 334, Colleton County had 1,007, Beaufort County had 1,949, Jasper County had 1,445 and Orangeburg County had 2,438. 

In Dorchester County, fallen trees were reported on Ashley River Road near Middleton Place. Gusts at Shutes Folly in Charleston Harbor were reported stronger than 60 mph, according to WeatherFlow.

Wind caused a container to come lose from a tractor-trailer on the Don N. Holt Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River, according to the S.C. Department of Transportation.

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Shea Gibson, a Charleston-based meteorologist with the private forecasting company WeatherFlow, took pictures of a shipping container that had fallen off a tractor-trailer on the Don Holt bridge. Shea Gibson/WeatherFlow

Weather conditions are expected to be sunny and relatively mild through the weekend. 

Saturday will bring a high of 69 degrees and sunny, breezy conditions, according to the Weather Service. Nightfall will see partly-cloudy conditions and a low of 52.

Sunday will be sunny with a high of 73 and a low of 55. 

Monday will also be sunny with a high of 79 and a low of 60.

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Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.

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