As Hurricane Matthew ripped through the Grand Strand, North Myrtle Beach was particularly unlucky. The area was hit by a tornado Saturday, and a raging fire in Cherry Grove was challenging for first responders, as storm-force winds whipped at the blaze.
Five houses were lost in the inferno, as unsafe winds delayed firefighters in reaching the area.
“That is so heartbreaking when you see houses and condos burn, and I do feel empathy for the owners of those properties, but you know our firefighters did all they could do,” Mayor Marilyn Hatley said.
But now, the city already is thinking ahead to the next storm. Hatley said the city will continue to focus on putting utility lines underground, and City Spokesman Pat Dowling said that a massive loss of sand dunes has left the shoreline even more vulnerable.
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North Myrtle Beach will now start the push for beach renourishment to move forward on an accelerated schedule, and Dowling said the city is communicating with national lawmakers in a coordinated effort with the rest of Horry County.
“The main issue here is the protection of our oceanfront, and of course we have been working with the (Army Corps of Engineers) for renourishment for 2017,” Dowling said.
However, Hatley said the city’s building standards ensured more structures weren’t damaged in the storm. A total of $19,769,150 in damage was done to 1,799 structures, according to the city’s damage assessment. George DuRant of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce said a Wednesday estimate of business impact, including damage and lost tourism revenue, amounted to over $10 million.
DuRant said that communities along the entire South Carolina coast are coordinating to make sure visitors know how to reach them and know that businesses are open. A few businesses are still experiencing power outages, and many had issues with phone systems as electricity flickered back.
“Having been through this a number of times, all of our individual businesses Sunday morning were out repairing and cleaning up and getting ready for business,” DuRant said.
Storm surge was particularly powerful in Cherry Grove, where Dowling said high-water marks observed after the storm reached three feet.
“Basically all of Cherry Grove was impacted by the storm surge. The marsh and the ocean met. When the ocean rises, the marsh also rises,” Dowling said.
The dredging project in that area’s marshes, however, is still scheduled to commence, and machines for the work are expected to arrive in this month.
Some in North Myrtle Beach, like in other areas of Horry County, remain without power, though the situation is improving. Santee Cooper’s outage map indicated Thursday evening that under 200 customers were still without power in the North Myrtle Beach area, which is not identical to the city limits. Each “customer” indicates one household, which could include multiple people.
“It’s spotty. Most of it’s back on, but you can have spotty outages,” Dowling said. “Ninety percent of it at least is back, at least in the city.”