Grand Strand governments began declaring states of emergency Friday ahead of Hurricane Isaias’ potential arrival early next week.
The latest forecasts show the storm tracking closer to the South Carolina coast, meaning Isaias could begin impacting the area on Monday.
“That’s particularly alarming to us,” said Conway Fire Chief Le Hendrick. “It’s not a very big storm, but it is wide enough where we could see some effects, regardless of the track. We’re well within that error cone. A jog to the west is obviously going to be really bad for us, but a jog to the east would be really good. So it’s really uncertain at this point which direction it’s going. It’s going to make that turn. It’s just kind of a matter of when.”
Conway City Council, North Myrtle Beach City Council and Horry County Council each approved emergency declarations at abruptly-called meetings. Those decisions clear the way for the governments to receive federal funding if the storm causes damage in the area. They also give the local chief administrators more flexibility to spend public funds in response to the hurricane.
"The real advantage of passing this is this has to be in place before the event to get any sort of reimbursement," said North Myrtle Beach City Manager Mike Mahaney. "Essentially what we're doing is planning for the worst and hoping for the best."
Declaring a state of emergency is standard practice for local governments when a storm is approaching.
Mahaney said North Myrtle Beach crews were also cleaning out catch basins and put a front-end loader at the Little River Fire Station to clear trees from the road in the case crews need to respond to an emergency. He said public works crews would also be embedded at the fire stations along with the first responders.
"We're doing all the things that we would normally do to prepare for the worst," Mahaney said.
So far, the track of the storm is still uncertain, and North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley said she had "no idea" what the storm would do.
"I never second-guess Mother Nature," the mayor added.
Hendrick, the Conway fire chief, had a similar approach.
"We're planning just like we're going to get a direct hit," he said. "We're making the preparations we can."
Unlike some of the slow-moving storms that have flooded the county in recent years, Horry County officials expect Isaias to move through the area quickly, possibly being out of the area by Monday.
Local leaders said the area could see more problems from wind than flooding, though they stressed the forecast could always change.
“It wouldn’t take much for it to actually make landfall in Horry County,” said Randy Webster, the county’s assistant administrator over public safety. “We’re not with the luxury to say it’s not going to be a big deal. But it won’t be a very strong storm, not like a [Category] 3 or 4.”
Myrtle Beach also declared a state of emergency, according to a news release from city spokesman Mark Kruea, though there was no public meeting to discuss the storm.
Check back for updates.