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Hurricanes: All eyes on Irene

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Roz Wyndham was still wary as updated weather reports continued to roll in, but her spirits were a lot higher than they had been the previous day.

Out of concern for the safety of her staff, Wyndham, owner of Roz’s Rice Mill Café, had expected to close her restaurant for the weekend. That was when forecasts earlier in the week said Hurricane Irene, projected to be a Category 3 storm, was likely to plow into the South Carolina coast.

By Wednesday, the storm’s track had changed and residents and business owners throughout Georgetown County breathed a sigh of relief and put emergency preparation plans on hold as the storm track moved farther away.

“As we all know, when you live on the coast, nothing is a certainty,” Wyndham said. “But with every passing hour, I feel better.”

Palmetto Ace Hardware hired extra staff to handle increased sales earlier in the week, but “today was just another day in the hardware business,” owner Charles Biddix said on Wednesday. However, the store was sold out of generators.

Phones at area real estate and property management companies started ringing first thing Monday, with owners calling about getting their houses boarded up, renters checking on vacation plans or looking for evacuation information, and some people just looking for a local’s take on the weather.

Of about 40 calls at The Dieter Co., Will Dieter, the property manager, estimates about half were people wanting to know if the staff knew any more about the hurricane than they did.

“It’s interesting,” he said. “I guess since we live in the area, they think we have more information than they do.”

But Dieter gets his weather information from most of the same places as out-of-town residents, starting with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He also favors Weather Underground, an online resource, and gets local analyses from WPDE’s chief meteorologist, Ed Piotrowski.

“I tend to shy away from The Weather Channel, because they tend to have the worst case scenarios,” Dieter said. “We want the best information.”

Alan Altman, a partner at Pawleys Island Realty, remembers when weather updates used to come twice a day.

“That was what you made your decisions from,” he said. “Now there must be 20 different websites everybody checks and the information seems to be updated every five minutes.”

In some ways, he said, more frequent updates create more stress.

Brian Henry, owner of the Sea View Inn and Get Carried Away, a take-out restaurant, said his mind is programmed to check weather advisories on the hours they are released.

“As business owners we dig and search for as much information as we can get,” he said. “We want all the minutiae.”

He shares what he knows with guests who are booked at the inn, using tools including Facebook.

Owners and people with vacation plans aren’t the only ones looking for hurricane updates on Litchfield Real Estate’s Facebook page, according to Sharon Abee, the marketing sales coordinator.

“For folks who come down here, there’s an ownership factor,” she said. “They love the Litchfield and Pawleys Island areas and want to know what’s going on.”

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