Local officials break down afternoon storm safety

Viewer Glen A. Ballard captured this amazing pic of lightning in Carolina Forest
Viewer Glen A. Ballard captured this amazing pic of lightning in Carolina Forest

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF)- We are in the middle of storm season, but even when it has stopped raining, dangers are high.

Both the Myrtle and North Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue Departments understand this is a tourist destination, so many people may not be local and they do not realize the dangers of everyday afternoon storms.

The majority of storms roll in early to mid afternoon, just when many vacationers are in the middle of their afternoon activities, including beach days.

The Chief of North Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue, Tom Barstow, wants people to be more aware.

"Don't stand outside, especially on the beach - the beach is wide open and has a tendency for lightning to strike."

Many viewers sent WMBF News great storm pictures from the beach. Dark clouds were slowly taking over, but Chief Meteorologist Jamie Arnold gives tips to keep in mind:

"If you hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck. Don't wait till it starts raining. Lightning can strike when the rain hasn't even arrived yet," he said. "You're on the beach - you're exposed. You're at one of the highest points, as far as lightning is concerned. So if you hear thunder, that's your cue to go ahead and get off the beach."

Lifeguards are prepared to be on the beach rain or shine, and make sure people who aren't as familiar with the area or our daily storms take the right precautions.

"As soon as lightning is around or in the area, we will go to 'no swimming,' which is a red flag," explained Hannah Houston from Lacks Beach Service. "So we get everyone out of the water and it usually develops a chain reaction."

Chief Meteorologist Jaime Arnold looks at today's afternoon storms as an example. Dark clouds rolling in are also a cue to leave the beach, because waiting to hear thunder or see lightning could be risky.

"They got a metal chair over their shoulder, they're carrying a beach umbrella with metal over their shoulder, and you've got lightning bouncing around - definitely not the safest thing to do," he said.

Arnold says cars are a very safe place to be if you are staying put, but Chief Barstow says driving them in heavy rain could be dangerous.

"Pouring rain isn't the easiest to deal with, either because people like to go in their cars and we usually see an increase in accidents," Chief Barstow said.

Weak trees and limbs in your yard are also something to watch for. One viewer sent a picture after a tree smashed her husbands truck.

Lieutenant Christian Sliker with Myrtle Beach Police suggests people take preventative measures in their yards.

"Wherever you live you will want to trim any limbs because during these strong winds you want to make sure you don't have any flying objects."

Doctor Rhoades with Doctor's Care says a lot of the injuries he sees are from people being outside in these storms and getting hit with flying objects or trying to drive their cars during times of flash flooding.

Sliker, Barstow, Houston, and WMBF's Jamie Arnold all suggest staying inside when you receive any weather warnings.

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