The tourist magnet of Myrtle Beach was a ghost town on Thursday morning with the imminent approach of Hurricane Florence – apart from a few dozen locals who had chosen to ride out the monster storm on the coastline.
The life-threatening hurricane, which has ten million people in its path, began lashing North Carolina with wind and rain this morning. Winds of 105mph are expected along with storm surges of 9-13 feet in some areas.
The storm is expected to make landfall on Friday morning and sit over the Carolina coast for at least 36 hours.
The last few remaining residents of Myrtle Beach, including these children outside The Oasis Motel, where on Thursday preparing for the arrival of the category two storm. Authorities had ordered everyone to evacuate
Myrtle Beach is seen mostly deserted, aside from beach goers and people strolling the beachfront areas, just hours before Hurricane Florence makes landfall along the North Carolina and South Carolina coastlines
The wide streets of the tourist hot spot would usually be thronging with late-summer visitors, but were silent on Thursday after nearly all the city’s 33,000 residents evacuated, as did many more in the wider metropolitan area
Frank Rose is one of those staying put. The 56-year-old pilot said he had decided to stay and that his oceanfront home was hurricane-proofed with sturdy cement siding, reinforced windows and elevation on 12-ft pylons
Florence has been downgraded from a category-4 to a category-2 hurricane but authorities are still urging people to evacuate because the size of the storm is increasing and is no less dangerous.
On Myrtle Beach, locals were enjoying a relatively calm morning before the wind and waves picked up around lunchtime.
Most of the restaurants, bars, hotels and stores on the boardwalk were boarded up, including the historic 14th Avenue Pier, which suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
Frank Rose, 56, was taking a stroll along the beach from his home in Surfside, a few miles down the coast. The Pittsburgh native moved to the beach town in February after vacationing with his family in South Carolina for many years.
‘I’m a pilot so I’m used to bad weather,’ he said. Rose, who flies for American Airlines, said he had decided to stay and that his oceanfront home was hurricane-proofed with sturdy cement siding, reinforced windows and elevation on 12-ft pylons.
‘I’ve got plenty of food and it’s just me, so I’ve got beer,’ he joked. He said that most of his neighbors had heeded the warnings and left town. ‘Everybody bugged out. There’s some people who have retired here and some vacation rentals, they’ve all gone.
‘I was on the beach at 6am and was talking to the police. They are going to have a curfew at 8 o’clock tonight but once the storm starts around 5pm, I don’t think they are not going to respond to anyone.’
Ritchie Lawton, 20, Kenda Payton, 57, Joe Freeman, 20, and Taylor James, 19, pictured in the sea at Myrtle Beach on Thursday, also plan to ride out the storm
Most of the restaurants, bars, hotels and stores on the boardwalk were boarded up, including the historic 14th Avenue Pier, which suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Hugo in 1989
Law enforcement patrols Myrtle Beach on Thursday. The local police have warned residents choosing not to evacuate that if anything happens, they will be on their own
A string of bars in Myrtle Beach are bordered up after residents of the South Carolina city left in preparation for Hurricane Florence
Florence is forecast to dump up to 40 inches of rain in some areas after it makes landfall in North and South Carolina Thursday night or Friday. Pictured: Boarded-up shops in Myrtle Beach
The owners of The Oasis Hotel had installed barriers on the doors to try and stop the interior of the property from flooding during the hurricane
Several people were seen walking along a balcony towards the back of the motel when this image was taken on Thursday afternoon
Businesses and homes in the Myrtle Beach were boarded up and thousands of people had moved to emergency shelters by Thursday
Rose said that he believed more people had left this time than in previous hurricanes. ‘I just moved here in February but I had a vacation planned during the last one [Hurricane Matthew] two years ago and it seemed like a lot of people stayed then. This time not so many have.
‘I think this one has been taken seriously. They made a lot of noise about the evacuations and the size of this thing.
‘It’s been downgraded to a category-2 but the problem is if it moves down the coast, it’s going to dump a lot of rain and cause a lot of flooding.’
Jamie Pride, 33, was at the beach with Lucas, 15, Emery, seven and 20-month-old Paxton.
She and her family, who have lived in Myrtle Beach for seven years, decided to stay because she is a nurse and her husband also works in the medical field.
Although it wasn’t mandatory for them to stay, they were asked to stay longer because of their jobs.
‘There are evacuation zones 1, 2 and 3,’ she said. ‘We live past zone 3 close to Coastal University. We just came to the beach to see what it looked like out here.’
Duffy’s, which boasts ‘hot beer, lousy food and bad service’ was one of many businesses that had closed its doors in preparation for the storm
Myrtle Beach has a population of around 32,000 and attracts thousands of tourists every year. Pictured: A boarded up restaurant near the seafront
A private weather-forecasting firm is estimating that Hurricane Florence will cause $50 billion to $60 billion in economic damages
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said residents were running out of time to safely evacuate, although most of the inhabitants of Myrtle Beach had already done so
Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and the popular Broadway at the Beach is seen looking like a ghost town just hours before Hurricane Florence makes landfall
The Ferris Wheel was standing completely still while these large blocks of flats on the seafront were almost completely deserted
She said that a lot of her neighbors had left to stay with family in the north and in Florida. ‘We have friends staying with us because her husband is a firefighter and he’s not allowed to leave.
We went grocery shopping, took down our fence and we have a generator if the power goes out. We are going to hunker down.’
Jim Holliday was at the beach taking photographs with his wife April, and friend Linda Anama who lives in Surfside.
He said: ‘We live in Forestbrook which is over the intercoastal waterway. I am born and raised in Horry County and I’ve never left for a hurricane.
‘We’ve got food and we’ll board up one large window.’
Linda had decided to take shelter with the Hollidays at their home to ride out the storm. ‘I’ve been here since 1984 after moving from Virginia,’ she said. ‘We went through Hugo and it was very bad.
‘We had friends that had gone inland to the town of Florence and a tornado ripped the roof right off their hotel.’
Myrtle Beach is seen mostly deserted, aside from beach goers who remained despite repeated calls by the authorities to leave
Schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia, airlines canceled about 1,200 flights and counting, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied out. Pictured: Riley’s Super Fun Zone in Myrtle Beach
Forecasters said that given the storm’s size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses
Residents and business owners left messages on their windows, including this one reading ‘Florence… the season’s over! Go away! Please…’
A small number of locals who are refusing to leave stand outside The Oasis Motel and Apartments in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Taylor James, 19, was checking out the surf under the pier with her boyfriend, Joe Freeman, 20, his mom, Kenda Payton, 57 and their friend Richie Lawton, 20.
The arts student, who grew up in Myrtle Beach, said: ‘My Dad stayed through Hugo and it was fine. We think it’s going to be the same. And we are way more prepared now in our house than they were then. We have plenty of food and water, and we actually live about 20 miles away in Conway.’
Kenda Payton, who is originally from Iowa but has spent 22 years in South Carolina, said: ‘I’ve never seen this many people leave. People heeded the warnings. In Conway, stores closed four days early which made it hard for people to prepare.’
Drone and dashcam video shot on Wednesday shows just how quiet the city has become, and suggests most of the city’s 32,000 residents have already left.
The mandatory orders applied to most of the South Carolina coast and parts of North Carolina and Virginia.
Drone video taken on Wednesday evening in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, shows the usually bustling city is virtually deserted
Many of the city’s residents appear to have joined the 300,000 South Carolinians that evacuated on Wednesday
‘Myrtle Beach is like a ghost town. We’ve only lived here three years but we have friends that have lived here their entire life and have never experienced or seen the town so eerie,’ on resident, Rodger Maybey, told Stuff.
In Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, all residents had to leave by 8pm on Wednesday, otherwise there would not be any emergency services assistance provided to them.
Caroline Ciener spent the day boarding up her parent’s house. ‘We are boarding up today,’ she told ABC11.
‘It’s hot. It’s not fun but it’s all we can do at this point we are just trying to get everything out of the bottom of the garage as we are sure there is going to be water.’
Dashcam video from Myrtle Beach (also taken on Wednesday) were largely deserted apart from a few news vans
The same was true for many coastal areas in the Carolinas and Virginia on Wednesday and Thursday morning, after 1.7 million people were ordered to evacuate. Pictured: Myrtle Beach
HURRICANE FLORENCE IN NUMBERS
The outer bands of wind and rain from a weakened but still deadly Hurricane Florence began lashing North Carolina on Thursday.
As the monster storm moves in for an extended stay, here is a breakdown by numbers:
- Florence clocked 110 mph winds on Thursday after it was downgraded to a Category 2
- The storm was already generating 83-foot waves at sea on Wednesday
- Life-threatening storm surges of up to 13 feet were also forecast in some areas
- Florence is forecast to dump up to 40 inches of rain in some areas after it makes landfall in North and South Carolina
- Potentially 10 trillion gallons of rain is expected in southern states in the next week
- An estimated 10 million people live in areas expected to be placed under a hurricane or storm advisory
- Up to 1.7 million people were ordered to evacuated ahead of the hurricane
Officials are predicting Florence could cause $170 billion in property damage, but many businesses are already suffering an economic hit from the loss of business.
Chapel Hill has been hit by the closure of the University of North Carolina, with its 55,600 staff and students ordered to evacuate and the first football game of the year called off.
The cancellation of the game alone will take away $8 million in potential economic benefit from the local areas.
‘With the campus closed and the football game cancelled, there’s a lot of anxiety at local businesses,’ local chamber of commerce CEO Aaron Nelson told CBS.
‘UNC only has about six home games every season and losing one of those is a really big deal.’
The historic port city of Charleston, South Carolina, saw heavy flooding during Tropical Storm Irma last year, and officials are warning the impact of Florence is expected to be worse.
Many of the city’s residents had gone by Wednesday, joining 300,000 of their fellow South Carolinians also fleeing that day.
But despite the orders some residents are staying put.
Many of the residents of Charleston had gone by Wednesday, joining 300,000 of their fellow South Carolinians also fleeing that day.
Charleston (pictured on Wednesday night) saw heavy flooding during Tropical Storm Irma last year, and officials are warning the impact of Florence is expected to be worse
In Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, all residents had to leave by 8pm on Wednesday (this boarded-up shop is pictured earlier in the day)
Tim Terman and his wife live in Southport, North Carolina, and are planning to ride out the storm.
‘Once you leave, [it will be] hard to get back in to check on damage,’ he told CNN. ‘My home is all my wife and I have, materially speaking, a lifetime of stuff.’
Several highways in the Carolinas were turned into one-way streets so everyone could escape in cars laden with possessions.
Other infrastructure has ground to a halt, with Charleston International Airport among several closed until at least Saturday, and Amtrak pulling trains running to Virginia and stops south of Washington, DC.
The rail services are expected to restart on Monday, weather permitting.
Businesses like this one in Wrightsville Beach (pictured on Wednesday) will take a hit from the storm, both in property damage and loss of business
Many doorways in Charleston were piled up with sandbags as homeowners took precautions to try and stop flood waters from entering