Storm gusts reach hurricane strength – Coastal Observer


Storm gusts reach hurricane strength

Santee Cooper crews repaired a downed power line on Litchfield Drive.

No major damage was reported from a storm this week that brought winds with hurricane-force gusts and caused schools and government offices to close.

“The impacts were less than what were originally forecast,” Brandon Ellis, the county’s Emergency Management director, said. “I think that’s great. No one got hurt. There wasn’t widespread damage.” 

Wind gusts of 76 mph were reported on Pawleys Island and in Winyah Bay on Tuesday and a tornado warning was issued for Murrells Inlet and Garden City.

“It very much came and went,” said Dan Newquist, the Pawleys Island town administrator. “We’re very thankful.”

The town removed its new Mobi mat from the First Street beach access in anticipation of erosion. There was none. 

The plastic mat replaced a wooden walkway damaged by Hurricane Ian in 2022.

Even without the mat, a pickup truck was able to drive over the sand at First Street. He bogged down on the beach and police had it towed away, Newquist said.

Sporadic power outages were also reported throughout the county. Crews were still out on Wednesday to get power restored.

Ellis said some of the severe weather cells that were forecast to pass over the county on Tuesday instead passed by offshore.

“At one point there were three severe storms that had the characteristics of producing tornadoes and they were within 25 miles of shore,” he added. “A slight shift in those and we would have had some major impacts along our area.”

The Georgetown County School District extended its winter break by closing schools on Tuesday and delaying the start of classes for two hours on Wednesday.

Alan Walters, the district’s chief operations officer, said district employees were out before dawn on Wednesday checking facilities for damage.

A few minor leaks were reported, he added.

As county officials accessed the damage from Tuesday’s storm, they are already preparing for another storm that is supposed to hit the area on Friday.

According to Ellis, officials are monitoring forecasts and information from “trusted” sources and will decide today whether schools and government offices need to be shut down again.

“We make the best decision for our employees, for our residents, for our students,” he said. “We make those decisions with the safety of our residents and visitors being the utmost priority.”

Those decisions are not always popular, Ellis added.

According to Walters, bus transportation is a “major consideration” when deciding whether to close schools.

“The state owns the buses and if there’s a wind advisory, we can’t use the buses,” he said. “That kind of makes the decision for us.”

Damage to district facilities is not a factor, Walters added.

“The facilities are made to withstand tornadoes and everything else. They’re probably one of the safest buildings around. That’s why we use them for shelters,” he said. “If we can’t get people here and get them home, that’s the problem.”

District officials also reach out to the surrounding districts to see if they’re closing. A lot of Georgetown employees live in Horry County. So if Horry County closes its schools it affects Georgetown employees.



Georgetown County Board of Education: First and third Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Beck Education Center. For details, go to Georgetown County Council: Second and fourth Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Council Chambers, 129 Screven St., Georgetown. For details, go to Pawleys Island Town Council: Second Mondays, 5 p.m. Town Hall, 323 Myrtle Ave. For details, go to   , .