Is it safe to swim in Myrtle Beach after Hurricane Ian? Here’s what to know.

David Weissman/dweissman@thesunnews.com

Based on the current weather, one could be forgiven for forgetting a devastating hurricane slammed into Myrtle Beach Friday.

Since Saturday morning, the Grand Strand has been eerily calm. There’s been little wind. No rain. It’s supremely sunny, even.

Yet Hurricane Ian did, in fact, show up Friday, bringing with it flooding rain, heavy storm surges and powerful winds. Together, those three effects damaged five Myrtle Beach piers.

With the weather so beautiful, people are already racing back to the beach before it gets too cold. But is it safe to go swimming? Are there rip currents after the storm? Or debris in the water?

Here’s what you need to know.

Rip currents

Surprisingly, there are no rip currents anywhere along the Grand Strand right now, National Weather Service meteorologist Victoria Oliva said. Normally, rip currents would last for days, even a week, after a hurricane of Ian’s size passes over.

How is this possible? Oliva said the swells from Hurricane Ian died down quickly after the storm passed. This happened in part because of how quickly Ian moved. After leaving Florida, the storm came straight for South Carolina in barely a day.

“A lot of our storms are heading our way for days on end, like Florence took two weeks to get to us so the swells lingered for a while afterwards,” Oliva said. “Ian didn’t spend that much time over our local waters, so it didn’t begin to generate the long period swells that take a few days to dissipate. Ian was really strong, really fast — and then it’s gone.”

The only area with any rip current reports is New Hanover County in North Carolina, but even those are relatively minor, Oliva said.

“There are not many lifeguards still on the beach in October,” so swimmers should take extra care when going out because help might not be immediately available, Oliva said.

Watch out for debris

Five piers with locations spanning the entirety of the Grand Strand were damaged by Hurricane Ian.

Pawleys Island Pier, Myrtle Beach’s 2nd Avenue Pier, the Apache Pier in Arcadian Shores and North Myrtle Beach’s Sea Cabin and Cherry Grove Piers all sustained damage.

Cherry Grove and Pawleys Island sustained the worst damage. The former had its middle section ripped away, leaving half the pier standing alone in the water, and the latter saw the end point where people frequently fish torn off and float away.

Debris from all five piers has been floating in the ocean for the last two days or has washed ashore.

City of Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea said all of the town’s beaches are completely open. Even on Saturday morning, less than a day after Hurricane Ian passed, people were already back out enjoying the sun.

“Go enjoy it while the weather cooperates,” Kruea said. “The sky is blue, the ocean is blue and lots of people were out watching everything that was going on.”

The water itself is clean, too. The storm surge didn’t make it far enough inland to create any problems like introducing bacteria to the coastal waters, Kruea said.

However, he advised that swimmers should take extra care considering the debris from the piers and anything else the storm surge might have dragged out. Parts of the region saw several feet of storm surge — flooding streets, homes and businesses.

“Be careful if you do swim,” Kruea said. “There may still be some debris out there. Just use great caution.”

One major piece of “debris” — if it can be called that — is a shrimp trawler that washed ashore in Myrtle Beach near Williams Street and Ocean Boulevard, a short hop away from the famous Damon’s Grill.

Kruea advised people to stay away from the boat, named the Shayna Michelle. It has been secured by the police department until its owner can have it removed from the beach. Trying to climb on the boat is dangerous, he said, and can result in serious injury.

It’s not just a recommendation to stay away from the boat. WMBF News reported that a 50-year-old man was arrested Friday and charged with disorderly conduct for climbing onto the boat after it washed ashore.

Another Day (Week) of Sun

Myrtle Beach’s sunny weather is here to stay awhile, Oliva said.

Even before Hurricane Ian arrived, a large front of dry air was heading toward Myrtle Beach. Dry air inhibits cloud formation and contributes to sunny skies. Hurricane Ian also had a front of dry air wrapped around it, which helped push out any other potential weather systems that might have brought clouds and rain after the storm passed.

“In the Wilmington, Myrtle Beach area late Friday, we started seeing some sunlight here even when Ian was just over,” Oliva said.

Except for the potential of a minor rain shower Sunday night, it should be sunny for several days. Enjoy it.

P.S. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen! It’s October, so it’s extra embarrassing to have to explain to everybody why there’s a blazing red line across your forehead from wear you forgot to apply. Nobody wants to be a tomato.

The Sun News contacted the city of North Myrtle Beach about the state of the beaches there but has not yet heard back. This story will be updated when more information becomes available.