August 1, 2008

MB Storm Causes Quick Frenzy: Police Dispatchers Kept Busy With Emergency Calls

By Lorena Anderson, The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Aug. 1--Thunderstorms blew through the region last night, causing fires and power outages, knocking down trees and power lines, burning out transformers and frazzling emergency crews and dispatchers.

But the frenzy of calls only lasted about half an hour before quieting down again.

There were reports of a fire in the 3800 block of Myrtle Pointe Drive, but it turned out to be a false alarm, said Horry County Fire spokesman Todd Cartner. Crews at the scene said there had been a lightning strike, but no damage to buildings.

Power went out at Broadway at the Beach, Wal-Mart on U.S. 501 and in the Dunbar Street area near Mr. Joe White Avenue.

Before the heaviest lightning and thunder started, Myrtle Beach police dispatcher Jennifer Hennigan said things had been fairly quiet. There were a couple of accidents, one at 21st Avenue North and Robert M. Grissom Parkway, and the other at 67th Avenue North and U.S. 17 Bypass.

But as soon as the thunder got louder, things started to get busy.

By 9:30 p.m., she said the evening was hectic as dispatchers tried to sort out calls and update emergency crews.

Earlier in the evening, Loris police officer Adam Bell said he saw a transformer blow out in the 4800 block of U.S. 701, sparking into nearby grass and brush.

"There were flames and everything," he said. But by the time the fire department arrived, the rain had started and washed out anything that was burning. Santee Cooper crews were on the scene to repair the damage.

No one could be reached at Santee Cooper to estimate the extent of outages or when power might be restored in affected areas.

Lt. James Vreeland of the North Myrtle Beach Fire Department said his city had been spared many problems, despite the storm. But, he said, it's common for power surges and water damage to set off alarms.

A power outage was reported about 8:30 p.m. at the Myrtle Beach Wal-Mart. At 9 p.m., power had not been restored there or at Broadway at the Beach.

Late Thursday night, the FAA was reporting delays of up to an hour blamed on weather at Myrtle Beach International Airport.

In Brunswick County, N.C., Sheriff's Deputy Samantha Lewis said despite the storm, she had heard no reports of accidents or other damage from the storm.

Contact LORENA ANDERSON at 444-1722.


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