By Matt Tomsic
Published July 30, 2012
On Saturday, a 70-mph wind gust blew a post-Panamax container crane south on the S.C. State Ports Authority’s Wando Welch Terminal, where it struck the first of three smaller cranes and damaged all four.
The damage happened about 6:20 p.m. during Saturday’s thunderstorm, according to a news release from the ports authority, and the port reported the microburst to the National Weather Service in Charleston. The post-Panamax crane pinned the other three cranes to the dock, and all four cranes are damaged and stuck on the dock’s southern end. No operators were in the cranes, and no injuries were reported.
Shaw GBB, an engineering firm, will survey the cranes, which could take between one to three months to get operational again, and the cost could be covered by the ports authority’s insurance. The storm also damaged 74 containers, although 55 of them were empty.
Thunderstorms cause microbursts, or downbursts, when an updraft of a thunderstorm rises, suspending an area of rain, said Blair Holloway, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston. When the rain becomes heavy enough, it overwhelms the updraft, and the air and rain rushes to Earth, colliding with it and spreading along the Earth’s surface. Someone in a microburst would feel a gust of wind.
“It’s a pretty typical severe weather phenomenon for this area, especially during the summertime,” Holloway said. “It can produce winds that are quite strong.”
But most microbursts don’t cause damage, he said.
“It obviously would have been a stronger one to cause some degree of damage,” Holloway said, adding Charleston County was under a severe thunderstorm warning at the time of the microburst.