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Isaias weakens to tropical storm after making landfall north of Myrtle Beach as hurricane

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MYRTLE BEACH — After storm surge and coastal flooding closed roads and challenged rescue teams across the Grand Strand, Hurricane Isaias' has been downgraded to a tropical storm as it made its way through North Carolina early Tuesday.

As of 8 a.m., the storm's winds had dropped to 70 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center as it lumbered into Virginia with heavy rains.

The storm still packed a punch. The Hurricane Center warned that residents should expect strong winds and heavy rain to spread north along the mid-Atlantic coast into the day Tuesday. 

Isaias Aug. 4, 8 a.m.

Hurricane Isaias at 5 a.m. on Aug. 4, 2020.

By early Tuesday, much of the impact to South Carolina had subsided. 

The Hurricane Center had canceled all warnings in South Carolina and most of North Carolina, as the storm targeted points north. At 8 a.m., the storm was centered over southeastern Virginia near Tappahannock. It was traveling about 33 mph to the north-northeast. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles.

Winds from Isaias began arriving in Myrtle Beach about 8 p.m. on Monday, around the same time as high tide. The result was widespread coastal flooding that closed streets in areas near the ocean and along inlets.

Public safety officials deployed high water vehicles to rescue families from storm surge and coastal flooding, with no formal evacuation orders made for any of the three evacuation zones in Horry County on Monday.

The storm officially made landfall at 11:10 p.m. at Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, according to the National Weather Service. 

As Isaias moved up the coast Monday night, impacts to the Charleston area lessened and officials removed storm surge and hurricane warnings for areas up to McClellanville.

"While the worst of the storm is past the city, citizens are urged to continue to use caution as standing water may remain into the night and there may be downed power lines, trees and debris that have yet to be reported or cleared," Charleston officials said in a news release. "City crews will begin conducting damage assessments in the morning. Citizens who parked their vehicles in the free city parking garages are reminded to remove their vehicles by 10 a.m. Tuesday."

Midway Fire in Georgetown responded to homes in Litchfield Beach using special vehicles designed to drive through flood waters. In Cherry Grove, North Myrtle Beach spokesperson Pat Dowling said firetrucks couldn’t reach homes where electrical issues were causing smoke.

Hurricane Wire is a pop-up newsletter during hurricane season that delivers anyone who lives on the East Coast all the information they need to know as storms brew in the Atlantic and beyond.

North Myrtle Beach has two highwater vehicles, acquired from the federal government through a military surplus program. Dowling said they are great resources for getting people out of harm’s way during a flood.

“(We) cannot get a firetruck into Cherry Grove yet, so we sent a high water rescue vehicle to get the people and their pets out of the house and out of Cherry Grove,” Dowling said.

While no evacuation order was issued, most of the Cherry Grove and North Myrtle Beach area are in Evacuation Zone A , which is closest to the ocean.

Dowling said the tides seem to be receding, which could help decrease flooding issues near the coastline.

Meanwhile, Conway Fire Chief Le Hendrick pointed to Hurricane Matthew in 2016 as an example of what his crew expected to experience — less rain, more wind. As of 10:30 p.m. Monday night, his foresight was accurate.

“The wind is going to be our biggest concern. The ground is pretty saturated with rain so we are expecting down trees and power lines,” Hendrick said.

While public safety officials stayed busy on Monday night, Horry County Public Safety Director Randy Webster also spoke to significant beach erosion that is expected due to Isaias' high winds and subsequent high tide that beachgoers experienced late Monday.

The National Hurricane Center warned oceanside home dwellers to brace for storm surge up to 5 feet and up to 8 inches of rain in spots, as Isaias moved up the coast. The Carolinas weren't the only states at risk.

“All those rains could produce flash flooding across portions of the eastern Carolinas and mid-Atlantic, and even in the northeast U.S.,” said Daniel Brown, senior hurricane specialist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center. A tropical storm warning extended all the way up to Maine, where flash flooding was possible in some areas on Wednesday.

The center also warned of possible tornadoes in North Carolina on Monday night and early Tuesday, and from eastern Virginia to southern New England later Tuesday.

Up the coast in southern North Carolina, high winds from Isaias’ inner core knocked down trees and power lines, blocking roads. No major damage was initially reported.

According to the Weather Channel, 190,000 homes are without power in South Carolina and North Carolina as of midnight.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.

Myrtle Beach Reporter

Tyler Fleming covers Myrtle Beach and Horry County for the Post & Courier. He graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in history and political science. Tyler likes video games, baseball and reading.

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