Storm surge a threat for flood-prone beaches

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Tropical Storm Andrea isn't a hurricane, but some storm surge is expected, especially in low-lying, flood-prone beach areas.

According to the National Hurricane Center, storm surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides. This rise in water level can cause extreme flooding in coastal areas, particularly when storm surge coincides with normal high tide. Storm surge is produced by water being pushed toward the shore by the force of winds moving cyclonically around the storm. In most hurricanes, the storm surge is the greatest cause of property damage and fatalities.

The most flood-prone beach areas along the Grand Strand are generally Garden City, Cherry Grove and Pawleys Island. Minor flooding from surge can be expected in these areas overnight Thursday into Friday morning, especially at high tide around 7:30 Friday morning. With surge comes beach erosion, which can eventually lead to property damage and damage to roadways.

Also a major threat with the approaching tropical storm is strong rip currents. Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from the shoreline. Even if a hurricane or tropical storm is many miles away, it can still cause rough seas and strong rip currents at the beach.

The National Weather Service has issued a Rip Current Statement for coastal Horry, coastal Georgetown and coastal Brunswick counties, saying that ocean conditions will be hazardous on Friday. Strong rip currents are expected, with the strongest occurring around low tide near 1 p.m. Friday. The National Weather Service says that large south swells will create breaking waves from four to five feet over northeast South Carolina.

With Tropical Storm Andrea approaching, you should not be swimming in the ocean until well after the storm passes. Rip currents can be deadly; in fact, more than 100 people drown every year in the United States because of rip currents. If you do happen to be caught in a rip current, it is critical that you do not fight against the current. Swim parallel to the shore to get out of the current, then swim perpendicular once you are out of the current.

If you capture any photos of any flooding or storm surge, share them with WMBF by sending them to pics@wmbfnews.com or by posting them to the WMBF News and WMBF Storm Team Facebook pages.