A state park in Barnwell County will likely remain closed for the rest of the week after a tornado knocked down hundreds of trees and caused minor damage to some of its facilities this weekend.
Barnwell State Park was in the path of an EF-2 tornado that formed south of Blackville on Saturday afternoon. No injuries were reported in the park, but its power was knocked out, according to state Department of Parks and Recreation (SCPRT) officials.
“Barnwell was right in the direct path of that tornado, like a lot of places in that region of South Carolina,” SCPRT spokeswoman Dawn Dawson-House said. “So it did sustain some damage. The park is closed for the week… and we expect (power) to be restored by the end of the week.”
Dawson-House said most of the damage was fallen trees and power lines, but there was also minor structural impact. A manager’s residence, day-use restroom by the park’s lake, a boardwalk trail and park support facilities were also damaged by wind and falling trees. She said it will take some time to add up the estimated repair costs.
There were no injuries inside the park, but Dawson-House said crews had to cut a path through debris-covered roads to help four campsites and four cabins where visitors were stuck after the storm. “We’ve got so many crews in there right now helping clean up the debris and tree damage. We think by the weekend, Barnwell should be fine.”
South Carolina’s state parks have been hit hard by natural disasters the past six months. A fire that was blamed on lightning destroyed a nature center at Huntington Beach in July. Three months later, Hurricane Matthew temporarily closed 13 state parks and caused extensive damage at Edisto Beach and Hunting Island. Hunting Island is expected to remain closed until at least late May, according to State Parks director Phil Gaines. Heavy rain also washed out a dam holding back the park lake at Little Pee Dee. Just one month after that, a large wildfire closed trails at Table Rock State Park.
SCPRT is in the process of totaling its damage estimates before seeking repair funds from state legislators. The Beaufort Gazette reports that Hunting Island alone faces $5.5 million in rebuilding and cleanup costs. Dawson-House said it’s too early to know if the Barnwell State Park cleanup costs will be added to that.