As they put up shutters and sandbag barricades, business owners on the Myrtle Beach boardwalk shrugged off the panic about approaching Hurricane Matthew on Thursday.
“I’m a little concerned, but I’m not freaked out,” said Jan Hemelrick, the manager of Moe Moon’s Beachside Burgers and Beer. “I just know what to expect I guess.”
The boardwalk, stores and restaurants, which would usually be packed with tourists ahead of Columbus Day weekend, were deserted except for a few visitors taking a stroll before evacuating inland from their oceanfront hotels.
1989 Last time a major storm - Hurricane Hugo - hit South Carolina.
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Businesses were well ahead of Hurricane Matthew, which is supposed to start battering the coast with heavy rains and wind on Saturday. By Thursday afternoon most stores had already put up shutters and stored away tables, chairs and anything that could fly away.
Hemelrick and his staff used power tools to take apart the metal fences in front of the restaurant.
“We don’t want this fence blowing around, and we’re boarding up the windows in case there’s flying debris,” he said.
Storm preparations aren’t the pain they used to be, either.
You can prepare for everything, but nothing will prepare for that storm surge.
Justin Plyler, owner of Hurricanes Daiquiri bar
“We used to have to put up plywood on all of these windows,” said Curtis Pryor, assistant manager of Hurricanes Daiquiri Bar & Grill, as he easily slid the built-in storm shutters to board up the store.
He did cast a worried eye up to the brand-new, heavy sign hanging above the store. The one it replaced had withstood Hurricane Hugo in 1989, he said, but the new one is not hurricane-tested.
“Hugo was total devastation here,” Pryor said. The powerful Category 4 storm severely damaged most of the boardwalk, leaving it littered with glass and flooded with several feet of water.
If the hurricane continues on its projected path, skirting the Carolinas without making landfall, business owners say they don’t expect much damage — as long as it’s just rain and wind.
“But if the storm surge gets high enough, there’s nothing that will stand up to it,” said Justin Plyler, owner of Hurricanes. He was 5 years old when Hurricane Hazel leveled most of the Grand Strand. “You can prepare for everything, but nothing will prepare for that storm surge.”
Mike Lambert, who was barricading the front of Mammy’s Kitchen on Mr. Joe White and U.S. 17 Business, shares that worry.
“It’s not so much about the winds, more the water,” he said.
Lambert bought 25 sandbags Thursday morning, but needed to head back for more. He said Home Depot sold out of 17 pallets of sandbags within an hour and a half that day, but wasn’t worried about a shortage of sand.
“If anything, we can go to the beach,” he joked.
As for the storm itself, he thought it was being hyped up a bit by the media.
If Jim Cantore comes, then we know we have to worry.
Mike Lambert, owner of Mammy’s Kitchen
“The media’s got us all petrified, like it’s the end of the world,” he said.
“If Jim Cantore comes, then we know we have to worry,” he said, referring to the well-known The Weather Channel meteorologist.
In the middle of the hurricane preparations bustle on the boardwalk, Patricia Weaver was celebrating her birthday. Her daughter Deanna arrived last night from New York, but said she was getting very nervous about the approaching storm.
“We’re used to snowstorms, not this,” she said.
“She wasn’t going to let no hurricane stop her,” said Weaver, who has lived in the area for two years and is getting ready for her first major storm. “So yeah, we’re preparing for the storm – we’re having a daiquiri.”