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Hurricane Shuts Shelters in S.C.

August 30, 1999

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) _ They lost tourist dollars, not homes. They gained much needed rain after a record drought.

As Hurricane Dennis became North Carolina’s problem, the mantra along the South Carolina coast was clear: Things here could have been much, much worse.

``We get these scares quite a bit,″ said Marcus Ammons, 25, who headed for the store in Surfside Beach for treats late Sunday after having stocked up on supplies the day before. ``We’ve kind of gotten used to it.″

In Charleston, about 90 miles south, officials closed emergency shelters on Sunday evening after just 40 people arrived.

The National Hurricane Center warned that onshore winds could produce storm surge flooding of 2 feet to 4 feet above normal tides, and heavy surf advisories were issued for the Southeast coast.

The staff at the Holiday Inn Oceanfront were ready to be blasted by Dennis. All outside tables and chairs were cleared from the deck because ``when they start flying, they fly like missiles,″ security officer Henry McCray said.

Still, the absence of tourists _ whose slow-moving caravans streamed inland in hard-falling rain on Sunday _ seemed destined to become Dennis’ biggest fallout here.

Phyllis Baio of Colchester, Conn., and her boyfriend Mike Akridge sat in Meyer’s Ice Cream Parlor, lamenting the loss of sales from their traveling business.

The couple, who sell video games at flea markets, said the storms had driven away much of their weekend sales. They took in $400, compared to a typical $1,500 in a typical weekend.

``We’ve been through worse,″ said Ms. Baio, 34, who spends much of the summer at a beach cottage in Matunuck, R.I., and is accustomed to storms. ``We’ve weathered a lot of hurricanes right on the beach in Rhode Island. We’re used to the preparation.″

Dennis spun about 100 miles south of Myrtle Beach, dumping needed rain on the area thirsty from the lingering summer drought. The storm’s northeasterly turn by late evening spared the state from a direct hit.

More than a half-inch of rain fell at North Myrtle Beach during the first couple of hours, but Akridge, 41, said he welcomed the downpour in Myrtle Beach.

``It’ll probably help me,″ Akridge said. ``Rain up on the roof makes me sleep real good.″

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