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Hurricane A Distant Threat in S.C.

August 28, 1999

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) _ As Hurricane Dennis inched closer to the lower East Coast today, surfers took advantage of high waves and tourists bathed in the sun on the beach, taking reports about the approaching storm system in stride.

``We’ll just watch the weather periodically,″ said Shara Lindsey-Walters, as she husband Frank Walters and their two daughters sat in the sand Friday afternoon at Myrtle Beach.

``We trust Myrtle Beach will give us plenty of warning,″ said Walters, from Staunton, Va. ``Myrtle Beach is ready for that kind of stuff.″

Dennis strengthened slightly today with wind hitting a sustained 100 mph. The storm was expected to move parallel to the coast of Florida on a path that could take it to the Carolinas on Monday or Tuesday. Five-foot surf washed northern Florida beaches today.

There was a chance the storm could stall off the coast of the Carolinas, said Jerry Jarrell, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

``The fear of a stall is that it makes the storm surge much larger because it sits there and pushes water up onto the coast for a long period of time,″ he said today.

Despite the hurricane threat, Thomas Edwards, manager of the Holiday Sands Motel that overlooks the beach, said Friday the motel was booked solid with about 400 people and no one had called to cancel.

``Until the governor calls a mandatory evacuation of the area, it’s business as usual,″ he said.

Officials put state troopers and the National Guard on alert.

Tropical storm warnings and hurricane watches were in effect today along the Florida coast, and a heavy surf advisory was issued for the coast of Georgia. The storm was expected to parallel the Florida shore through Sunday, with the center remaining about 100 miles out to sea.

At 11 a.m. EDT, the hurricane was centered about 35 miles north of Abaco in the Bahamas, or about 220 miles east-southeast of Cape Canaveral, Fla., the hurricane center said. It was moving toward the northwest at about 6 mph and was expected to gradually turn toward the north-northwest on Sunday.

While surfers took advantage of the waves, county officials removed traffic signs, lifeguard towers and barricades from the beach so they wouldn’t be blown away by the storm.

Shrimp boats returned early to Port Canaveral, and the South Florida Water Management District lowered water levels in canals to lessen the risk of flooding in heavy rains.

In South Carolina, the governor ordered 1,000 National Guard troops and 500 state troopers to prepare for duty, while in North Carolina, 150,000 coastal residents were put on alert, as were state troopers and emergency management personnel.

However, most people in this city that thrives on tourism enjoyed the sun and surf.

``It’s not really a huge issue right now,″ lifeguard Mike Miehm said, who said he was in for a lot of work ``because people try to get in as much surfing before the hurricane. It’s really dangerous.″

At the Breakers Hotel, manager Kay Harris said most of 400 rooms were filled for Friday night with golfers, tourists and some reporters. She said reports of the storm chased away a lot of walk-in business.

``Normally we have a trail of traffic up (U.S.) Highway 501 and tonight there’s nothing,″ Ms. Harris said. With the weather channels and the Internet, she said, ``it seems we start earlier with the worry and warnings.″

Near Charleston, S.C., John Pharr, a senior at the College of Charleston, was surfing 5-foot waves at Folly Beach.

``It’s happened before,″ the Virginia Beach, Va., resident said. ``I’m not too worried.″

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