Posted by: dharmabeachbum | July 6, 2013

Tornado leaves lasting impression

The 2001 F2 tornado looms over the 14th Ave. and Second Ave. piers.

The 2001 F2 tornado looms over the 14th Ave. and Second Ave. piers.

The freakish weather we’ve had of late, rainy and humid with dark clouds blowing quickly across the sky, reminds me of July 6, 2001, when two tornados tore through Myrtle Beach. 

For the benefit of friends who might not have heard, tornados touched down near Socastee on Saturday, June 29, and a funnel cloud was spotted on Monday, July 1, near the intersection of Carolina Bays (Highway 31) and Robert M. Grissom parkways. No injuries were reported and damages were limited to downed trees and torn shingles. Violent storms were reported along the strand.

Twelve years ago to the day I was living a hundred yards from the beach in a hotel-turned-monthly-rental on 29th Avenue South. After hunting fossils in the morning and being drenched in sweat from my stroll, I told two friends, “This humidity is brutal. Were in for a bad storm.”

By early afternoon it was darker than a black steer’s tookus on a moonless prairie night. Lightning flashed everywhere. The clouds moved unnaturally as if they were confused as to which direction to go. A lightning bolt hit nearby accompanied by a loud boom. That’s when I knew it was time to duck inside my musty, one-room cabana. A friend joined me and we chuckled about the intensity at the storm.

“You just missed it,” another friend said, as we returned to the terrace outside.

“Missed what?

“A huge tornado just went by. Went down near Springmaid, maybe past it, then cut out around the airport.”

“No (expletive) way!”

“Yep. You should have seen it. Those floats from the hotel pools were whirling around with it. A giant piece of carpet tore off from atop Crown Reef and spun through the air. Looked like someone had just thrown it in the air like you would a pizza (dough). Landed right in our parking lot,” added yet another acquaintance. “I wish I could have been on it. That would have been one heck of a magic carpet ride.”

Apparently, some of that “steer’s-tookus” blackness that I’d seen was from spinning debris at the tornado’s base.

The National Weather Service labeled the twister an F2 on the Fujita-Pearson scale. It touched down near the oceanfront Bar Harbour resort in the middle of town and headed south to the Springmaid resort 30 or so blocks away, alternately moving on and offshore several times. Nearly 40 people sustained minor injuries from flying debris.

The tornado caused significant damage to the city. Hotel siding was torn away. Roofs were damaged. Windows were blown out. Buses laid on their sides. Street signs were uprooted and a few trees and utility poles were downed.

“People were running around,” said my late friend, Joe Pocorroba, who was working with his wife in the Springmaid Pier ice cream shop. “They were screaming. I swear. It was like Godzilla was coming up from the sea.”

As it turned out, the F2 was the second tornado to touch down in Myrtle Beach within minutes. The first was an F1 that was only on the ground for one-tenth of a mile. I believe that one damaged a few business marquees on Highway 17. Violent storms were reported along the Grand Strand. It was somewhat of a miracle that nobody was killed.

For the record, my former landlord kept that 20 by 20 foot piece of carpet and covered steps leading to the second floor with it. Well, he had one of my fellow tenants do the work. Unfortunately, my abode had three floors, so mismatching carpets made the place look like even more of a dump. I reckon I shouldn’t have expected more from a dude whose longtime nickname was Trigger.

Yeah, the weather seems to get crazier by the year. But I’ve grown accustomed to craziness. I embrace it.


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