Myrtle Beach Hurricanes

They aren’t the local sports team, but Myrtle Beach hurricanes do attract a lot of attention. From June 1st to November 30th each year we keep an eye on the weather, hoping we don’t see the eye of a hurricane forming in the Atlantic. It’s hurricane season and some years are quiet and some aren’t.

Ana was the earliest ever Atlantic tropical storm.This Weather Chanel map shows tropical storm Ana headed for the coast.

Since the National Weather Service started recording these storms, the Grand Strand has had its fair share of them, including the only two Category 4 hurricanes to strike the east coast since 1950. Sometimes, when we’ve had a warmer winter than normal, things heat up fast and early, as in the case of Ana, the second earliest Atlantic tropical storm on record. Ana came ashore near Briarcliffe Acres on Mothers’ Day, May 10, 2015, dumping as much as six inches of rain in some areas and leaving a wet, wind-blown mess in her wake.

So, if you are moving to Myrtle Beach, just know that hurricanes are a part of life here, and it’s best to keep emergency preparedness in mind and a hurricane plan in hand.

Myrtle Beach Hurricanes History

Historically, hurricanes and stories of them go back to early settlers in the area. Legend has it that the hurricane of 1893 washed away an entire house with 18 members of the same family sheltering inside. The worst storm to ever hit the area was Hurricane Hazel in 1954 which packed winds of 130 miles per hour, and I saw the devastation that Hurricane Hugo left in 1989.

Pawleys Island after HugoBeach houses on Pawleys Island destroyed by Hurricane Hugo.

Statically, Myrtle Beach hurricanes and tropical storms make landfall about every two years. Most of these are tropical storms or Category 1 hurricanes with winds of between 74 and 95 miles per hour. Storms making landfall here over the past hundred years or so have had an average wind speed of about 99 miles per hour.

What You Need to Know

Let me say first that I am NOT a hurricane authority and it is NOT the purpose of this page to replace those who are. I’ve lived in Florida and the Carolinas most of my life and I’ve ridden out a few Category 1 storms, but I don’t want to push my luck with anything bigger, thank you. Hurricanes are not fun! What I CAN say is that I’ve had some experience with hurricanes and I respect them and the devastation they can do.

I saw this first hand when we moved to Pawleys Island just two months after Hurricane Hugo tore through the area. It took years for all the clean-up to be completed. There were beach houses lifted off their pilings and blown inland as far as half a mile and large fishing boats left sitting in trees or in highway medians. All of the tall pine trees were bent over or leaning where the wind had pushed them. Hugo was a Category 4 hurricane. (click here to see the hurricane category chart).

Hurricane Hugo 1989Hurricane Hugo blew beach houses off their pilings and into the marsh.

Probably the greatest impact to riding out a hurricane comes in the aftermath. In a big storm, you are likely to lose electricity and possibly water if there are broken water mains. This means no air conditioning in the hottest part of the year, no way to keep food cold or to cook it, and no clean drinking water. Local officials begin work on repairs as soon as a storm has passed, but it can take days or weeks to get back essential utilities.

If there is a hurricane bound for our area, pay close attention to weather reports and to area emergency management. The City of Myrtle Beach will issue evacuation orders when necessary. If you’re told to go, GO. Don’t put yourself or local emergency personnel in danger by delaying. Sitting stuck in traffic on top of a bridge in 99 mile per hour winds is not my idea of fun. (click here for the City of Myrtle Beach hurricanes page.)

Like a Good Scout, Be Prepared

Now that I have you worried about Myrtle Beach hurricanes, here’s the good news. Hurricane tracking has gotten better and better over the years. Forecasts can accurately predict days ahead where a hurricane is likely to make landfall, so you have plenty of time to prepare to ride it out or evacuate.

For beach goers, Myrtle Beach has a beach flag warning system to let you know the water conditions and if rip currents might be present. This can be an indication of a storm farther out to sea.

For forecasts and tracking, see the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center. I also like to follow things on theWeather.com.

Click here to download the South Carolina Hurricane Guide from the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.

Click here for information about Beach laws and regulations regarding area beaches.

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