Sandy to come, go quickly
Sandy, the late-season hurricane prompting major worries in the Northeast, could bring tropical storm conditions today, but the foul weather is expected to clear out Sunday.
A 70 percent chance of rain is forecast for today, with north winds at 20 to 30 mph, gusting to 40 mph. The winds are expected to continue tonight, but the rain is forecast to gradually diminish.
Sunday is forecast to be mostly sunny with 15 to 25 mph winds, gusting to 30 mph.
Until the storm passes offshore, light, unsecured items such as garbage cans could be blown around and become a potential hazard. Small tree limbs may be broken, and isolated power outages are possible, the National Weather Service said.
Forecasters recommend staying out of the surf today and Sunday.
Dangerous rip currents and longshore currents will be life-threatening to anyone entering the water. High surf with breaking waves up to six feet will continue into early Sunday.
Beach erosion is also possible because of the large breaking waves and above-normal tides.
The National Weather Service put the Lowcountry under a tropical storm watch. Winds on the west side continue to expand as it moves northward.
“They just need to be keeping a close watch on the storm,” said Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen.
The city mobilized its fleet of high-water vehicles in the event they are needed, Mullen said.
Minor flooding is possible today and Sunday at high tide.
A tropical storm warning is posted for coastal waters. Small craft should remain in port and well-secured.
If winds reach a sustained speed of 25 mph, there is a possibility that swing bridges and draw bridges will not be opened for maritime traffic, said the S.C. Department of Transportation.
The Wando River Bridge connecting Mount Pleasant and Berkeley County, the Wappoo Cut Bridge, the Ben Sawyer Bridge and the twin bridges over the Ashley River connecting Charleston and West Ashley could be affected.
Folly Beach flood plan manager Eric Lutz said there already are several areas where the beachfront has been worn down so much that there is no beach at high tide, only rock.
“There’s not more to lose in some areas,” he said, adding that much of what happens depends on whether the worst hits at high or low tides.
One of the weakest points of the island is the Charleston County park at the western edge, already closed because of previous storms that have washed out the beachfront and parking areas.
Parks spokeswoman Sarah Reynolds said no special precautions are being done for this storm. “It’s been secured for months,” she said, “so it should be safe under any weather conditions.”
Coastal Carolina Fair
Rides will remain open unless wind and rain make them unsafe, said fair spokesman Joe Bolchoz.
“If we err, it’s going to be on the side of safety,” he said.
Each ride has its own manufacturer safety specifications regarding wind speeds, he said.
“At this point, we’re just trying to monitor it. We’ve got a written emergency response plan, and if we need to implement it we certainly will,” he said.
In 29 years, Bolchoz said he could not recall the fair closing because of weather.
Folly Beach promises to be heavy with surfers today and Sunday as the storm passes offshore while generating large swells.
Most expect Sandy to be the last big storm of the year, as the water cools and the hurricane season comes to an end.
“Swells are going to be pushing on us a little heavy,” surfer Chris Gordon said Friday, standing near the fishing pier where three or four others were making their way into the water.
Gordon said he understands excitement will be brewing but warned that the surf will be dangerous, too.
“You can swim out here and have a good day, or you can swim out here and never get out of the water again,” he said.
Today will probably be the bigger waves, he said, but Sunday will have the “cleaner waves.”
The Mount Pleasant Towne Centre Halloween Festival has been rescheduled from today to Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The pet costume contest there to benefit Pet Helpers also has been postponed until 1 p.m. Sunday.
The Awendaw Fire Safety and Prevention Expo scheduled for today has been canceled.