Horry County Stormfest raises awareness of storm preparedness

04/12/2014 6:28 PM

04/12/2014 6:40 PM

It may have been a stretch for some people to be thinking about severe weather in Horry County Saturday as highs reached in the mid-70s, but the third annual Stormfest had a pretty good turnout of families and area residents at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark to learn about storm preparedness.

Randy Webster, director of Emergency Management for Horry County, said the county made sure to notify students in Horry County about the fest as a way for the to encourage parents to bring them out Saturday.

“We’re really, really pleased with the turnout,” Webster said. “I’m very happy with the number of families that have come through.”

Exhibitors such as Santee Cooper, Myrtle Beach emergency departments, the National Weather Service, the Children’s Museum of South Carolina, Horry Electric, the Coastal Waccamaw Stormwater Education Consortium and more had handouts, demonstrations and hands-on activities for children and adults through most of the morning.

People were able to operate apparatus from Horry County and Myrtle Beach Fire Departments, the Horry County Animal Care Center had its adoption trailer and people were able to interact with Myrtle Beach Police Beach Patrol vehicles and talk with the Horry County Bomb Squad.

Webster said last winter’s ice storms played a role in how the county wants to further prepare itself for storm emergencies.

“There are always lessons to be learned from every event,” Webster said. “We haven’t had those types of ice storm conditions here in a long time. The responses to that was very good. Luckily, from our perspective, because there were still some areas that had electricity, a lot of people just went to family and stayed with them.

“There are things that we are going through right now with the recovery side of this that we have not had to deal with in Horry County at this magnitude since probably Hugo.”

Webster was referring to 1989’s Hurricane Hugo, one of the most powerful storms to hit the area in recent years. He said changes in personnel and changes in the way things are done at the state and federal levels have made dealing with weather catastrophes even more challenging.

“If you go back the 25 or so years since Hugo, very few people were here then doing the jobs that we’re doing now and that’s a big learning curve,” Webster said.

He said Horry County learned lessons in debris management and receiving federal and state assistance from the last two ice storms that he thinks will be useful in the event of a major weather emergency.

“If there’s a blessing in all of this is that we’re learning it now and we’re only dealing with vegetative debris,” Webster said. “We’re not dealing with torn up homes and torn up coastline and torn up roads. The silver lining is that we’re going through these steps for part of the problems that we would have for hurricanes or other severe storms.

“When the ice storm came, the electric went off for days in some cases. Hurricane, same problem and probably even more widespread. How you would deal with it hurricane wise and how you would deal with it ice storm wise is the same. Except for the ice storm, you would have a house to stay in.”

On Saturday, Steve Pfaff, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, was demonstrating the importance of wetlands and the impact of rain on the environment when people develop near wetlands by using Georgetown County Stormwater Division’s flood plain model.

“Hands on is definitely a lot better,” Pfaff said. “In some things with meteorology, it’s easier to do that than others.”

Pfaff said he liked the turnout and was pleased with the attentiveness of children who participated.

“This is just another way for people who work with weather, emergency managers, the American Red Cross, amateur radios, the Coast Guard, any agency is involved with that can share what they do with regards to helping people stay safe and educate them,” Pfaff said. “It’s designed not to demonstrate to them and lecture to them, but to let them be part of the model.”

Webster said Saturday’s event was a reminder for people to always be prepared for whatever Mother Nature decides to bring.

“It’s all a forecast, every bit of it,” Webster said. “Sometimes it’s on the money and sometimes it’s not.”

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