Barbara Whitmore watched the rain from her lawn chair inside a Longs garage Thursday afternoon.
Along with a handful of her Polo Farms neighbors, the group monitored Hurricane Dorian, though without the anxiety they experienced last year during Hurricane Florence. That storm’s flood consumed not just the homes on Irees Way, where Whitemore lives, but throughout the development.
“They all did,” Whitemore said. “Everybody flooded last year.”
The National Weather Service on Thursday projected the Waccamaw River would reach a major flood stage this week with a crest of 15.5 feet. Then the weather service lowered that projection to 14 feet. That’s higher than the moderate flooding forecast earlier in the week, but it’s far from the record of 21.2 feet set last year during Florence.
Meteorologists have said the storm will be away from the Grand Strand by Friday, so it won’t hover over the area dumping rain the way Florence did. That gives Florence victims like Whitmore some peace.
“It’s moving too fast,” she said. “What helped too was the creeks and the rivers … they were low.”
Built beside S.C. 905, Polo Farms sits near Simpson Creek, which was overwhelmed by Florence’s downpour in 2018 and spilled into the surrounding area.
But after being out of their homes for months, then gutting and restoring their homes, neighbors said they have become much closer. Whitmore, who has lived in the community for two years, said she plans to stay.
“What are you supposed to do?” she said. “Either you say, ‘I’m putting up a ‘for sale’ sign and moving’ or you just say, ‘Well, I’m riding it out.’”
A tornado touched down just before 7 a.m. Thursday in North Myrtle Beach, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington, North Carolina.
It was just one of several possible tornadoes reported in the area.
The tornado hit the complex early Thursday morning as the outer bands of Category 3 Hurricane Dorian began to hit the Grand Strand.
“I was so frightened,” resident Una Ciardella said. “I heard that noise coming, like they say, like a train coming. I dived into my closet and when I got into the closet, all of a sudden I hear this great big bang. I said ‘Oh my God, what happened?’”
Outside her unit, trees snapped. Siding flew off buildings.
“When it got quiet, I went out and saw all this damage out here,” Ciardella said. “I could not believe it. I was so scared.”
In a unit across the street, Dylan Driggers said the tornado turned around cars.
“Probably 6:30 a.m. or so, [I] started hearing the siding and everything being ripped off the building, hitting the window,” Driggers said. “Looked out the window, it was raining really hard and swirling. Couldn’t really see much. It was pretty rough this morning.”
Elsewhere in North Myrtle, power had gone out in some areas. Some businesses had boarded up but most were just locked up and closed. Low-lying streets began to hold several inches of pooled water.
Driggers, a medical sales rep, said he was going to ride out the storm because he had to work again on Friday.
“I thought it would be like the last one,” he said. “Gotta work again on Friday, so I decided that I’d ride it out.”
On 2nd Avenue South, Wayne White of White Realty was heading to some properties he manages to shut down the elevators.
“I was going to pick a buddy of mine at his house,” White said. “I was sitting here at the stoplight and I saw the circular motion of the clouds. I was like ‘There’s a neat little video,’ and while I was getting my phone out, the funnel just dropped, it was just that quick. I pulled into a parking lot and just video-taped it.”
White said he’s never seen a tornado in person.
“I have seen tornadoes on TV,” he said. “I can honestly say I’ve never seen one in person. I’ve never seen this many reported.”
By 7 a.m., Horry County had received 10 tornado warnings.
Heavy rains, tornado warnings and power outages jolted Horry County Thursday morning as Hurricane Dorian arrived on the Grand Strand.
The storm produced multiple tornado warnings before dawn, including a report of a possible tornado in the Little River area, according to Myhorrynews.com’s news partner WMBF.
The S.C. Highway Patrol reported that power lines were down on S.C. 57 and Cox Ferry Road shortly before 6 a.m.
Over 4,500 Horry Electric customers were without power, according to the cooperative's website. Most of those people (nearly 4,000) live in the Brooksville area, but there were also people without power in Longs (422) and in the Quail Creek neighborhood (41) near Coastal Carolina University.
Santee Cooper had about 7,000 customers without power in Horry County early Thursday, according to the utility's website.
Check back for updates.