Holly Hill putting the pieces back together after tornado rips through part of town

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Neighborhoods around the Lowcountry are cleaning up after the spring storm that rolled through the area Thursday night. We're learning how much damage was left in Orangeburg County.

It’s the calm after the storm. A portion of Pine Street in Holly Hill is filled with debris. Fierce winds tore the roof off a building.

Moving boxes are folded at the Holly Hill Observer and Santee Striper newspapers.

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"That all has been collapsing more and more as the morning progresses," explained Cindy O’Neil, managing editor of both newspapers.

O'Neil surveyed the ceiling damage caused by the bad weather.

"It's starting to get it wet. I can see places where it’s beginning to buckle and peel," O’Neil said as she pointed to disheveled ceiling tiles.

She and her small reporting staff are packing what they can and moving elsewhere until the roof is replaced, and the ceiling can be repaired.

"We do feel very lucky that none of this was worse. We do feel lucky that we can take our work computers home,” O’Neill said. “And those computers have our newspaper programs we use to create the paper."

Officials with the National Weather Service in Columbia surveyed the debris. They confirmed a EF1 tornado caused the damage to the newspaper building.

"Right here it certainly looks like the tornado touched down for a brief period just south of Holly Hill and right into town before lifting,” said John Quagliariello, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “So we're just investigating that right now to determine how long it was on the ground for."

"The tornado came and ripped our strip of metal off the roof," O’Neil said to someone who called the damaged newsroom.

It’s a story O'Neil is telling now, and will write about later for her readers.

"We won't miss an issue. We'll still publish next week," she said.

Holly Hill Police Chief Josh Detter says the National Weather Service told him the same twister caused damage to a house on Cocoa Circle. No one was hurt.

For readers who aren’t able to reach The Holly Hill Observer and Santee Striper during the temporary relocation, they can email Cindy O’Neil at

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