October 25, 2014

NWS: Microburst, not tornado, hit Conway area

A survey team from the US National Weather Service says it was strong winds — but not a tornado — that damaged homes and downed trees in Horry County on Monday night.

The National Weather Service reported 75 mile-per-hour winds struck in a few communities west of Conway around 5:30 Monday evening, tearing the roof off one trailer home and blowing a tree on top of another. Six minor injuries and hospitalizations were reported, although all the patients had been released by Tuesday.

The NWS team examined the damage in the Juniper Bay Road area on Tuesday. But meteorologist Mark Bacon said the debris suggested “straight-line winds,” not a tornado. “When there’s damage to roofs and trees are either snapped or uprooted, it all occurs in the same direction,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “That air just travels in a straight line… The tornado obviously has a circular motion.”

Bacon said the winds were from a microburst, which is caused by intense winds that are pushed downwards by rain, hits the ground, and fans out in a straight line.

The winds caused mostly minor damage and caused a tree to crash onto a mobile home roof in a trailer park off Sleepy Hollow Lane. Another home along Singing Pine Road had its roof lifted off by the wind, although the NWS report states the roof had been “poorly secured.”

The storm left nearly 1,000 customers without power in Horry County, mainly in the Conway area. Marble-sized and even some golf ball-sized hail was reported in the region.

Heat advisory for coast, as heat index reaches 110

Image: NWS

This National Weather Service image shows the heat index for different areas of the Lowcountry Monday

The National Weather Service is urging residents in eastern South Carolina to be careful. The agency issued a heat advisory Monday for 12 counties located near the coast, warning that the heat index (a combination of temperature and humidity) could be around 110 Monday afternoon.

The advisory warns the excessive heat will be in effect from midday until early evening. Forecasters say “oppressive” heat and humidity are creating a potentially dangerous situation.

The advisory is in effect in Allendale, Berkeley, Colleton, Charleston, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Marion and Williamsburg counties.

The National Weather Service recommends wearing lightweight, light colored clothing to better reflect the sun’s energy than darker outfits.  The weather service also cautions anyone spending much time outdoors to continuously drink water, and avoid alcohol and caffeine which can dehydrate the body.

Other recommendations include avoiding strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous work, do it during the coolest part of the day such as the morning or early evening.

Hurricane Arthur now past SC

The storm passes South Carolina on Thursday (Image: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

The storm passes South Carolina on Thursday (Image: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

The National Hurricane Center now says it expects Hurricane Arthur to intensify into a Category 2 storm as it gets closer to North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Meanwhile, the has moved past the Grand Strand region of South Carolina. The National Weather Service (NWS) reports Arthur’s eye was located about 35 miles south of Cape Fear, North Carolina around 5:00 pm Thursday. The storm is moving northeast at about 13 miles per hour, with maximum winds around 90 mph, according to NWS forecasters.

While the worst of the hurricane is expected to stay out to sea, the conditions are currently considered unsafe for swimming in South Carolina from Beaufort to the North Carolina border. Myrtle Beach currently has red “No Swimming” flags at all of its public beaches, although surfers are still taking advantage of the unusually large waves. Safety officials are warning of the strong potential for rip currents and storm surges.

Horry County emergency planner Alicia Sanders said she is not aware of any rescue calls as of noon Thursday.

“The good thing is that it is rough weather out right now as far as rain and wind, so there’s not as many people out in on the beaches except for surfers,” she said. Sanders said she’s also not aware of any flooding reports, as forecasters are predicting no more than two inches of rain Thursday.

The National Weather Service still has a Tropical Storm Warning in effect for the South Carolina coast between Georgetown and the NC border. Forecasters are also warning of possible storm surge in the area, but its impact is expected to be minor.

Most of the concern is on the Outer Banks area of North Carolina. A mandatory evacuation of Hatteras Island was ordered Wednesday. Most forecast models call for Arthur to hit the barrier islands, before curling back out to deep sea on Friday.

Tropical Storm Warning now in effect along Grand Strand

Storm's predicted path (Image: NWS)

Storm’s predicted path
(Image: NWS)

Tropical Storm Arthur is threatening many people’s plans for the Fourth of July weekend along the East Coast.

The National Weather Service has announced a Tropical Storm Warning along South Carolina’s Grand Strand region. The warning means winds up to 80 miles per hour could hit the area on Thursday. But most forecast models suggest the storm will pass well offshore of South Carolina, but threaten North Carolina’s Outer Banks

The warning extends from the South Santee River south of Georgetown to the North Carolina border.

Officials in Horry and Georgetown counties say they are preparing for the storm, but also say the weather should be nice on Independence Day. However, they are warning swimmers to keep an eye out for rip currents.

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division (EMD) moved to Operating Condition Four (OPCON-4) Tuesday in preparation for the tropical storm. The EMD says, while the storm’s direct impacts to the state are expected to be minimal, Arthur could create heavy rip currents for Thursday and Friday.

Horry County spokesperson Alicia Sanders said the county emergency division is keeping an eye on the storm, but is mostly warning people about the dangers of rip currents. Tropical storm conditions are possible in Horry County for the next 48 hours.

Georgetown County Public Information Officer Jackie Broach says Arthur will have passed by Friday, but people visiting the beaches should still keep in mind the coastal waters will be affected by the storm.

“Just because it looks sunny and nice outside they may tend to forget that we did just have a tropical storm pass by and the water is not necessarily that safe,” Broach said. “So it really could end up being that the rip currents prove a bigger threat than the actual tropical storm.”

Broach added that although this tropical storm won’t affect SC badly, the hurricane season has just begun.

“Even though this storm is not necessarily going to bring damaging winds and rains and things like that, we are only a month into hurricane season,” Broach said. “We still have months to go and just because  this one is not posing too much of a danger it doesn’t mean the next one will not be a serious threat.”

Arthur is the first named tropical storm of the current hurricane season.

Patrick Ingraham filed this report

State emergency officials keep eye on Tropical Storm Arthur

The projected route of Tropical Storm Arthur (National Weather Service)

The projected route of Tropical Storm Arthur (National Weather Service)

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) said Tuesday that it is monitoring Tropical Storm Arthur, although forecasters believe the storm’s center will stay offshore when it passes the Palmetto State.

SCEMD increased its state of operational readiness to Condition 4 (OPCON) Tuesday evening. OpCon4 is the second lowest of five operational conditions. Personnel representing key state response agencies were notified to review plans and procedures and are on-call if needed.

Arthur, the 2014 season’s first named storm, was recorded with maximum sustained winds of 45 knots, according the National Weather Service. The National Hurricane Center predicts Arthur will upgrade to a hurricane by the time it passes South Carolina on Thursday, but most forecasts have the storm’s center remaining a few hundred miles off the coast.

The Grand Strand is expected to receive rain and possible storm surges, but should avoid the hurricane itself. Forecasters are warning that winds could be at least 70 miles per hour by the time the storm reaches the Outer Banks.

Emergency Management officials are warning coastal residents potentially vulnerable areas to consider any actions they would need to take if the storm does shift course and threaten South Carolina. The public, especially those living in low-lying areas along the coast, can monitor the storm on NOAA weather radio.