MYRTLE BEACH — Hurricane Sandy virtually spared Horry and Georgetown counties of any major problems Saturday, but states along the Eastern Seaboard are preparing for the worst as the so-called “Frankenstorm” continues its march north.
Reid Hawkins, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., said as of 4 p.m. Saturday, the airport in North Myrtle Beach was registering .59 inches of rain from Sandy. The highest registered wind gust was around 30 miles per hour, he added.
Tropical storm-strength winds have sustained gusts of 39 miles per hour.
“It’s kind of diminished here in the last hour, but there’s a lot of rain off the cost,” Hawkins said just after 5 p.m. Saturday.
Emergency management directors in Horry and Georgetown counties both reported there had been no reports of major flooding as a result of Sandy.
“We’re continuing to monitor it,” said Randy Webster, Horry County Emergency Management director.
There were some sparse power outages early Saturday morning in the Murrells Inlet area, said Georgetown County Emergency Management Director Sam Hodge. All power was quickly restored.
Hurricane Sandy was downgraded to a tropical storm early Saturday morning, only to regain its hurricane status a few hours later, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The storm’s effects began being seen in Horry and Georgetown counties shortly after the first morning light.
The beach near the Garden City Pier was virtually empty, except for a few surfers and those not letting the weather dampen their early-morning walk.
“This is absolutely wonderful,” said Boston resident Donna Constantine, her face absolutely beaming as she talked about her love of storms, while strolling down the beach with Murrells Inlet resident Beverly Kryzmowek.
Constantine said she doesn’t want bad weather to hurt people or their property, but she didn’t at all mind the breezy wind and drops of rain falling down on her Saturday morning. After a week of vacation along the Grand Strand and having sunny skies and pleasant temperatures, she called the change in weather, “the frosting on the cake.”
“This is just the best place to live,” Kryzmowek said.
Steve Pfaff, with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., said Horry and Georgetown counties can still expect to see upward of 1 to 3 inches of rain Saturday and sustained winds of 30 to 40 miles per hour, said
“It’s weakened, but it’s expected to remain large with widespread impacts,” Pfaff said.
Sandy’s initial bands came through the coastal region Friday night, Pfaff added. Rainfall amounts haven’t been that heavy yet, but are expected to increase throughout Saturday.
Horry and Georgetown counties remain under a tropical storm warning.
And while the Grand Strand was largely spared Sandy’s wrath, the eastern portion of the country is not feeling so lucky.
Hurricane Sandy was expected to make landfall early Tuesday near the Delaware coast, then hit two winter weather systems as it moves inland, creating a hybrid monster storm.
Experts said the storm could be wider and stronger than Irene, which caused more than $15 billion in damage, and could rival the worst East Coast storm on record. On Saturday morning, forecasters said hurricane-force winds of 75 mph could be felt 100 miles away from the storm’s center.
Up and down the coast, people were cautioned to be prepared for days without electricity. Several governors, including Connecticut’s Dannel Malloy and New Jersey’s Chris Christie, declared states of emergency. And airlines said to expect cancellations and waived change fees for passengers who want to reschedule.
“We should not underestimate the impact of this storm and not assume the predictions will be wrong,” Christie said during a storm briefing Saturday in North Midletown, near the coast. “We have to be prepared for the worst.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact BRAD DICKERSON at 626-0301.