BAMBERG – Mount Pleasant resident Harry Talmage surveyed about ten different cities and towns to find out where he wanted to open up his business.

“Bamberg stuck out with its great leadership,” Talmage said.

“It really appealed to me and how beautiful downtown will be.

“I was working with the county and the city on how I could help revitalize downtown.”

The 28-year old put a couple hundred thousand dollars of his own money into Bamberg’s two oldest buildings at 3059 Main Highway. The buildings date back to around the early 1890s.

Talmage had rehabilitated about 80 percent of the upstairs for use as commercial office space.

An EF2 tornado hit downtown Bamberg on Tuesday, causing both buildings to collapse.

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“Now I just don’t know what the next step is,” Talmage said. “I just don’t know what I will do next to move forward on that project. I sunk a lot of money into this.”

In addition to lot of money, Talmage says he has put in over 7,000 miles traveling back and forth between Bamberg and Mount Pleasant to make the project happen.

“I don’t know how I am going to put it back together,” Talmage continued. “I don’t think insurance will give me enough to fully repair it all.”

The downstairs was occupied by Bamberg Rustic Furniture and More, owned by Bobbi Bunch. Bunch has operated the business for about 2-1/2 years as a home décor and furniture consignment shop.

Bunch says she’ll have to see what she does now.

“I’ve got structural damage. I can’t get in to get anything. I will have to call it a loss. Maybe some other buildings will come up. We will see,” she said.

Robert Thomas, executive director of Southeastern Housing and Community Development, owned the building next door to Talmage’s.

Thomas also planned to help revitalize downtown.

“We are all trying to figure out what is the best thing to go into different buildings in downtown,” Thomas said.

The building was empty, but was insured. It was the tallest in the county.

“I am thinking that it is unsafe,” Thomas said. “The whole back wall is still standing. I am thinking it will have to come down. It will probably be a blank slate. I don’t know if we will be able to salvage any of it.”

Bamberg Mayor Nancy Foster said the city has been working with the Southern Carolina Alliance in acquiring a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. It was also working with a company to help restore businesses and bring mom-and-pop business downtown.

Despite the tornado damage, Talmage said, “I am not going to give up on Bamberg.”

Foster said she’s brokenhearted.

“Downtown is my passion, so it is kind of sad for me to see buildings from the late 1800s destroyed, but God has another plan. We will keep going and pick up and start over,” Foster said. “We will have to make some decisions on what we will have to do.”

“Just say a prayer for us and we will get there,” Foster said.

‘It was a lot scary’

While downtown business owners wondered what their next steps would be, Bamberg residents were just happy to see another day.

“I experienced what sounded like a freight train inside of a wind tunnel,” said Alisha Moore, who lives off Veterans Avenue.

“High winds, house rattling, windows shaking, a tree branch came to my bedroom window,” she said. “I was terrified. It was a brand new experience. I even called my children to tell them I loved them because I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Moore got inside her bathroom and shut the door. She got on the floor for what seemed about a 10-minute period.

“The impact of the wind and the extreme shaking of the house and the windows shattering – it felt like an eternity,” Moore said. “I am grateful not only that I was not injured and there was not more damage to the house that I was renting, but all our Bamberg County citizens were not injured and there were no fatalities. That is the shining light at the end of this horrific tunnel,” she said.

Carlisle Road resident Jennifer Hiatt was at home when the storm hit.

“It was a lot scary,” Hiatt said. “Things got a little dicey.”

Hiatt said she received an emergency alert about a minute before the storm hit.

“It was so quick,” she said. “It was like my phone went off and then it was too late. It was already there. It went by so fast. I was still in panic mode and then it was over.”

A day after the storm, Hiatt was still without power. The family lost a storage shed.

“It saved the house, but we were lucky in that respect,” Hiatt said. “We have a real mess down there.”

Hiatt said it was the first time she had ever been that close to a tornado.

“I don’t care to repeat it,” she said.

Sue Greenberg was in her home on Second Street when the storm hit.

“It sounded like a freight train,” Greenberg said. “The sky was dark, the wind was whipping. It worked its way down Second Street.”

Greenberg said her alert did not come in time and when it did come, it was in Spanish.

“I got an alert in Spanish,” she said. “I’ve got a flip phone and I can’t even make it speak Spanish.”

Greenberg said she did not have time to take cover and was in the sun parlor trying to stay away from windows.

“We lost electricity almost immediately,” she said. It took about 20 hours to have it restored.

“I am very thankful but blessed, actually, but you know what? Scary stuff, just scary. I can’t even begin to tell you,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg said the storm cut off the top of a pine tree in her yard. Her house was spared from any damage.

“I am so glad that school was closed, because the buses come down Cannon Street around 3:04 p.m. and it would have meant they were over at the school waiting to load to bring the kids home. But because they closed school in anticipation, there was not a need for that,” she said.

William Axson, who lives on Second Street, heard a loud boom.

“I don’t know what that was. Loud wind – very, very ferocious winds rattling windows and doors,” he said.

Axson said he lost some lawn furniture during the storm.

“Somebody saw it going down the street in the middle of the road. I don’t know where it ended up,” Axson said. “I just sat in my recliner and just rode it out.”

Axson’s roof had some damage, but there were no leaks.

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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