Chelsea Spear contributed to this report.
It was nearly dark when a severe thunderstorm ripped through Aiken County, South Carolina yesterday, and as it was just a matter of minutes before thousands of dollars worth of damage was left in the storm’s path. Stable View, one of the premier venues for all disciplines in the Aiken area, took some of the most devastating damage and is today left to start the repair process with the first dressage show of the season approaching this weekend.
[UPDATE 2/7/20, 2:11 pm ET]: The National Weather Service has confirmed that an EF-1 tornado occurred in the area on February 6.
A storm survey team from US National Weather Service Columbia South Carolina has confirmed an EF-1 Tornado occurred…
Posted by US National Weather Service Columbia South Carolina on Friday, February 7, 2020
WHOA. This is the damage at Stable View Farms in Aiken County on Spring Field Church Road.Download WRDW On Your Side…
Posted by News 12 NBC 26 on Thursday, February 6, 2020
We’re happy to report that at the time of publication there have been no injuries to horses or people reported. However, Stable View is currently picking up the pieces of 100 temporary stalls, fencing and equipment and is facing massive structural and property repairs. Stable View owners Barry and Cyndy Olliff are already hard at work with the help of some volunteers preparing the property for repairs and for the arrival of competitors this weekend.
“Our focus at the moment is the event tomorrow,” Barry told EN. “There were about 75 horses and 40 people on the property at the moment and we’re relieved there were no injuries.”
IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: As a result of a part of Stable View being hit by a tornado, we're sorry about our…
Posted by Stable View on Thursday, February 6, 2020
Sara Katz, who works with Julie Gomena and has her horses up the road, happened to be driving to Stable View at the time the storm hit. “It was weird because it was barely drizzling, and I was only going about 25 MPH,” she said. “I was driving down the road to Stable View when all of sudden I saw the temporary barn start lifting up and fly across the road in front of me. The stalls were going one by one, and then everything went pitch black because the wind rain were so strong. Debris started flying everywhere. I floored it in reverse and then something hit the truck and blew out the back window.
“Then just like that it just stopped. I basically saw the debris and wind, a tornado, and it crossed the street. It was like watching a deer run across the road, it was so quick. Just came out of nowhere and could not see it anywhere and then all of a sudden it was just on us. If it was the front window that got hit with something, I may not be here. People think riding horses you are never in control, this was an out of control body experience. I felt so helpless, 100% helpless. I am so glad I was driving a big truck!”
Valerie Vizcarrondo Pride is at Stable View for the winter season and has her horses, who are all fine, on the premises. She reported to EN that there are cross country jumps in the trees. Some of her staff was at Stable View when the storm hit (Valerie was walking her course for Pine Top!) and the girls said they looked past the covered arena and saw a funnel. They report that you could hear it before you could see it.
Many eventers in Aiken are gearing up for Pine Top Intermediate Horse Trials this weekend, and as as Valerie said, “The show must go on!” They are using a battery powered light to braid and get things ready. Valerie said, “We are incredibly lucky that all of the horses and the team are safe — everything else is fixable and replaceable and in fact already being addressed by the hardworking Stable View staff.”
Damage was spread throughout Aiken County, flooding roads, downing trees, and leaving many residents without power. This storm was widespread, causing high waters and severe weather all the way into Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina.
To that end, many of our fellow eventers and riders are in Aiken this winter and may be in need of your assistance. In particular, Stable View has requested the ongoing help of volunteers as they scramble to get the facility back up and running at full tilt. Each weekend forthcoming has an event scheduled, and the Olliffs aren’t cancelling.
“Stable View will be better than it was first time around, that’s the challenge and we’re giving ourselves a month to get this sorted so hopefully we’ll be in very good shape for the March (FEI event),” Barry said. If you’re able to help, Barry has requested volunteers who are able to help pick up and sort rubble and garbage and help with the clean-up of cross country, which Barry says is “devastated.” Please bring gloves, and Stable View will provide food. For more on how you can assist, please contact Barry Olliff directly at 215-313-3774.
Let’s band together and help our friends in Aiken, EN! If you see any other riders in need of assistance, please let us know by emailing [email protected].