Hurricane Sandy no major threat to Myrtle Beach area, but could affect Halloween events

tgarvin@thesunnews.comOctober 24, 2012 

— Hurricane Sandy may not be a terror to Grand Strand home and business owners, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a trick up her sleeve that could put a damper on Halloween weekend.

Sandy became a Category 1 storm Wednesday morning, making landfall in Jamaica around 3 p.m. with 80 mph wind, pounding rain and a powerful storm surge, moving on a track that should take it well east of the Grand Strand.

That doesn’t mean the area won’t feel some affects of the 18th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, however.

“We’re definitely going to see enhanced rip currents, very large waves and some gusty winds,” said WBTW meteorologist Andrew Phillips. “There is uncertainty in the track, so the more to the west it would go, the more chance of rain and stronger winds. But we’re not expecting damaging winds, just breezier than normal.

“Beach erosion and rip currents will be our main concerns along the coast.”

Horry County Emergency Management Director Randy Webster was also confident that the area would again be spared the brunt of a storm.

“I really don’t think we have anything to worry about,” he said. “We are obviously watching the storm, because until it gets past us you don’t know what’s going to happen. We haven’t seen anything in the forecast nor any other suspicion on why we would be needing to prepare for a direct impact.”

For some, however, the timing couldn’t be worse for any threat of foul weather.

Halloween events aplenty are scheduled for different locales around the Grand Strand this weekend, from pet costume contests to haunted houses and castles to adults frolicking in their favorite spooky getups.

Barefoot Landing has an adult party scheduled for Friday night on the deck at the House of Blues, while kids and pets will have their time to play Saturday, where events include contests, a petting zoo, free carousel rides and more.

Rain, however, could wash out the festivities as Barefoot has no facilities big enough to handle the expected crowd. As of Wednesday evening, there was a 40 percent chance of showers and winds were expected at 42 mph.

“There have been other years that they’ve forecasted bad weather and we’ve lucked out,” said Barefoot Landing Marketing Director Kim Kelley. “When you have an outdoor venue, you’re always at the mercy of Mother Nature. We’re still in the process of coming up with a Plan B or rain plan, but it’s not out of the question.”

In the event of rain, she encouraged participants to call 222-6007 to find out about the schedule in the event of rain Saturday.

Broadway at the Beach also has a pet costume event set for Saturday morning and a costume contest that draws hundreds to Celebrity Square set for Saturday night. Revolutions, which hosts the evening event, could likely move its contest inside, although it was unknown if the capacity could host the horde that usually attends the festivities.

For those who want a sure-fire family party, Huntington’s Haunted Halloween promises to go on “rain or shine.” The Atalaya “castle” will be the setting of the festival, which promises games, Scooby Doo cartoons, crafts, a bonfire and more from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday night.

The storm was no festival for Jamaicans on Wednesday.

In Jamaica’s densely populated capital of Kingston, the damage was mounting late Wednesday, but there were no initial reports of death or serious injuries.

Storm surge and heavy seas swamped waterfront homes in the eastern Kingston neighborhood of Caribbean Terrace and the road to Kingston’s major airport. Flood water breached rivers and retaining walls, cutting off some communities, including Kintyre in the St. Andrew Parish, according to The Daily Gleaner newspaper. In St. Mary Parish on the northern coast, directly under Sandy’s fierce core, resident Pamella Simms said power was out and things were falling apart well before the storm reached the coast.

”Several trees have fallen and many houses have lost their roofs. And we are in darkness,“ she said.

In Portland, another eastern parish prone to flooding, several roads were already impassable, blocked by landslides and downed trees, and much more rain was expected. With six inches to a foot projected across the mountainous island, and up to 20 inches in spots, flash floods and mudslides remained a potentially deadly threat.

”We are just recovering from the effects of heavy rains a few weeks ago, and here comes Sandy,” said Rackell Wilson, a nurse who lives in the area. “We are just hoping and praying for the best.”

In Haiti, Sandy’s rain-laden outer bands triggered extensive flooding. Rivers were rising across the country. Farms were under water in Ille a Vache, a small island off the southwestern tip of Haiti. Homes were flooded in the fishing village of Tiburon and in the southwestern city of Les Cayes, where 50 patients had to be evacuated from a hospital, along with 200 residents in a seaside settlement.

One woman was reported killed in the southern town of Camp Perin as she was crossing a rising river, said Edgard Celestin, spokesman for the Office of Civil Protection.

Marie-Alta Jean Baptiste, director of the Office of Civil Protection, urged residents to stay away from rivers “to prevent any additional deaths.”

In South Florida, which also is expected to dodge a direct hit and serious disruption from Sandy, there were no plans to close schools or shut down airports.

Public school classes in Miami-Dade and Broward were set to continue as normal on Thursday, though it is a half-day for students. Friday is a teacher work day in both counties so students will have no class. Broward’s school district cancelled all school-related outdoor activities on both days.

The South Florida Water Management District also was preparing for heavy rains and potential flooding, though no repeat of the deluge from Tropical Storm Isaac was expected. Southeast Florida already has received near-record amounts of rain this year.

Robert Molleda, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Miami office, said storms could produce between one and three inches of rain — but probably not across the entire region.

“It’s going to be a close call whether any substantial rain bands do make it on shore,” he said. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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