City of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Hazard Mitigation Plan
The City of Myrtle Beach is located in the heart of the Grand Strand region. Stretching
more than 60 miles, from the North Carolina border to Pawleys Island in Georgetown
County, the Grand Strand area is visited by an estimated 12 million tourists annually.
Vacationers are drawn to the area to relax and play on the beach by the Atlantic Ocean.
Two of the most challenging elements of planning for hazard response and mitigation
in a resort area are protecting these transient populations and preserving the beachfront
and adjoining areas. The City of Myrtle Beach has produced this Local Mitigation Plan
under the requirements of 44CFR201.6 in order to:
• identify the potential hazards that may impact the City’s citizens and visitors;
• assess what activities may be enacted to further reduce losses from the identifiable
• enact, review, and revise a process to mitigate future losses.
1. History of the Plan
In 1998, the City initiated a committee to write a Floodplain Management and
Hazard Mitigation Plan. The committee was comprised of city staff, local and state
officials, and Planning Commissioners. As part of the planning process, the committee
held public meetings and worked with hundreds of citizens during the visioning process
for the comprehensive plan update. The result was the City of Myrtle Beach’s Floodplain
Management and Hazard Mitigation Plan. It was prepared as a guide to facilitate the
implementation of floodplain management, as well as provide a guide for reconstruction
and redevelopment of flood prone areas and as a means to reduce or eliminate future
The Senior Planner, a professional planner from the City’s Planning Department,
drafted this plan with input from the City’s Visioning process and a planning committee
appointed by the City Council on February 10, 1998. The committee membership
included members from the general public – one of whom is an owner of property in a
flood plain – representatives of municipal departments responsible for implementing and
carrying out the plan, and a representative of the state agency that has the authority to
plan and manage development along the coast.
General Public 2 representatives
Office of Coastal Resource Management 1 representative
Code Enforcement 1 representative
Fire Department 2 representatives
Police Department 1 representative
Public Information Officer 1 representative
Public Works 1 representative
Risk Manager 1 representative
The committee held four working sessions and a public hearing during
development of the plan. A great deal of public input was collected as a part of the City’s
visioning process, and much of the committee’s public input on storm related concerns
was derived from that process.
After adoption, the responsibility to enforce the plan went to the Director of
Construction Services. The Floodplain Management and Hazard Mitigation plan was
updated annually. During the 2004 rewrite, the duty of reworking the plan to fit the
requirements of the Disaster Management Act were delegated to the Floodplain
Coordinator, a professional planner and Certified Floodplain Manager. The Floodplain
Management and Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee reconvened for several
meetings prior to and after the first public input sessions.
2. Public Involvement
During its annual retreat in January 1996, City Council made a commitment to ask
citizens (both from inside the City and those residing outside the City in adjoining
neighborhoods) to develop a shared vision of the community’s future, which would
become the foundation for the update of the City’s comprehensive plan, the document
that guides future development.
“IT’S TIME,” a vision for the greater Myrtle Beach community was born out of that
commitment. In April 1996, more than 50 residents participated in a two-day workshop to
design a detailed vision program tailored to the unique needs of the community. City
Council appointed a Steering Committee with an oversight Executive Committee to guide
and execute the program. Over the next seven months, this committee met numerous
times to set-up, organize and prepare for the general public input phase of the process.
In early 1997, during a three-week period, the idea-gathering phase of the program
was accomplished. More than 650 citizens attended eight individual meetings held in
various parts of the community to insure a broad spectrum of area representation. In
addition, a special meeting, attended by nearly 100 students, was held to involve students
from two area high schools. These meetings, designed as brainstorming sessions,
allowed individuals to express their ideas on the problems and future direction for Myrtle
Beach. These sessions generated more than 1,700 ideas.
This input was organized into 19 categories that follow closely the elements of the
City’s comprehensive plan. At the goal setting workshop, held on March 21 and 22, 1997,
participants used the ideas collected to create goals and strategies for each category.
The goals established by the visioning process became the starting point for the
comprehensive plan update to be completed and adopted early in 1999. Upon adoption
of the revised comprehensive plan, the Floodplain Management and Hazard Mitigation
Plan became an element of that plan.
A public hearing was held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31, 1998, in the first
floor conference room of City Hall to review this plan and give the public a chance to
respond and recommend changes they may feel are appropriate. The committee took
this additional input into consideration in developing the final draft of the plan. A copy of
the newspaper advertisement is in the appendix.
Based on the years of annual review and the input from the Floodplain
Management and Hazard Mitigation committee, a draft of the plan was prepared and
presented to the public on September 23, 2004. The general public, neighboring
communities and agencies, community businesses, Coastal Carolina University, area
non-profit agencies and other interested parties participated in both the September 23,
2004 and the October 5, 2004 Comprehensive Plan kickoff meeting. On October 5, 2004,
the Planning Department held a kick-off meeting for the Comprehensive Plan update
process that was attended by 175 residents and concerned citizens, as well as special
interest groups, the small business community, elected officials, and City board members.
Comments regarding flooding, safety and hazards were culled from the overall public
After receiving the public input, the committee met again to respond to requests
and then held another public input session on October 14, 2004. Comments from all
meetings were used in creating a final draft. The final draft plan was made available for
review October 19, 2004, on the City’s web page and through distribution to the public
participants; the plan will be submitted for approval at the October 26, 2004, City Council
3. Agency Coordination
Prior to the formation of the planning committee, in preparation for local planning
process, the senior planner had meetings and telephone conversations with a number of
governmental agencies and private organizations to gain insight into their floodplain
management strategies and programs, as well as to determine what help they may be
able to offer in flood plain management and hazard mitigation.
The agencies and organizations contacted are as follows:
• Horry County Emergency Preparedness Director
• Horry County Flood Plain Manager
• SC Emergency Preparedness Director
• SCDNR NFIP State Coordinator
• SCDHEC OCRM
• SC Sea Grant Consortium
• ISO Commercial Risk Services, Inc.
• National Weather Service, Columbia, SC
• FEMA Region IV
Each of these agencies and organizations was sent a copy of the March 13, 1998,
draft of the plan and asked to provide written comments by March 31, 1998.
Prior to and during the revision process, the Floodplain Coordinator prepared for
the revision by discussing planning requirements with a number of agencies, including:
• Horry County Emergency Management
• Horry County GIS
• City of North Myrtle Beach, Planning and GIS Departments
• City of Conway, GIS Department
• SC Emergency Management
• NOAA, Charleston, SC
• SC DNR Water Division
• SC DNR NFIP Coordinator
• ISO Commercial Risk Services, Inc.
• Coastal Carolina University, Marine Sciences Division
During the revision process in 1998, the Floodplain Management and Hazard
Mitigation Committee referred to several existing plans when discussing hazard
identification and mitigation. During the course of the 2004 update, we reviewed the list
of plans and concluded that the list was conclusive and did not need revision. This list of
• City of Myrtle Beach Comprehensive Plan
• City of Myrtle Beach Floodplain Management and Hazard Mitigation Plan
• City of Myrtle Beach Emergency Management Plan
• City of Myrtle Beach Standard Operating Procedures (individual departments)
• City of Myrtle Beach Risk Management Plan, Surface Water Treatment Plant
• City of Myrtle Beach Disaster Response and Recovery Plan (Police Department)
• Air Base Redevelopment Authority (ABRA) Master Plan
• Withers Swash Drainage Basin Master Plan
• Yaupon Drive Drainage Basin Master Plan
• Porcher Drive Master Plan (part of Cane Patch Drainage Basin Master Plan)
• Deep Head Swash Drainage Basin Master Plan
• 14th Avenue North Drainage Basin Master Plan
• 24th Avenue North Drainage Basin Master Plan
• 4th Avenue North Drainage Basin Master Plan
The draft plan was sent to the Floodplain Management and Hazard Mitigation
Committee members as well as to neighboring municipalities, Horry County and SC DNR
4. Hazard Assessment
This section provides background information about natural hazards in Myrtle Beach.
Floods are perhaps the most serious and most frequent hazards that threaten
Myrtle Beach. It is important to understand the types of floods—that is, their source and
frequency—as well as the historical record of floods and flood damage in the area.
Types of Floods
Flooding in Myrtle Beach can occur from three major sources. (1) Hurricanes and
other tropical storms bring abnormally high tides, heavy wave action, erosion, and
usually, heavy rains for a few hours. (2) Northeasters have the same conditions, but their
effects typically extend over several days. (3) Heavy rainfall unaccompanied by the
strong winds of hurricanes and northeasters are a third, frequent cause of flooding in
Myrtle Beach. While northeasters and heavy rainfalls may occur anytime during the year,
hurricanes have a season that extends from the beginning of June to the end of
Flooding from rainfall occurs along all six swashes in Myrtle Beach—Midway,
Withers, Deep Head, Canepatch, Bear Branch, and Singleton—and in other low-lying
areas. Flooding is exacerbated in these areas by high tides. When the discharge points
of these drainage systems are blocked by a high tide, then the precipitation that has
occurred upstream has nowhere to flow. Instead, the water floods low areas along
natural watercourses and within the man-made storm water system. This high tide effect
is apparent throughout the city since the discharge points of all drainage systems—the
ocean, the swashes, and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway—are affected by the tides.
Of these discharge points, however, the Intracoastal Waterway near the City is the least
affected by the tides.
The frequency and severity of flooding in Myrtle Beach has several causes in
addition to the tides. Other contributing factors are the amount of rain that falls within a
given time period, the size of the drainage ways, and the amount of precipitation that runs
off the land surface (that is, the amount of poorly drained soils or man-made impervious
Typical monthly precipitation records do not provide sufficient information to
determine if flooding may result. The amount of rainfall within a 1-hour or 24-hour period
is used to determine the potential for flooding. The accompanying table provides the
amount of rain (falling within one hour and 24 hours) to create a variety of storm events in
Horry County. For example, a storm that is so intense it has 20% chance of occurring in
any single year will result in 2.48 inches of rain falling in one hour or 5.5 inches falling in
24 hours. The design criteria for onsite storm water detention facilities in the City of
Myrtle Beach are based on the 25 year, 24 hour event. According to the records of the
National Climate Data Center, no precipitation that has fallen within a 24-hour period
since 1989 has produced the 7.6 inches of rain that qualify as a 25-year storm. However,
on February 17, 1998 nearly seven inches of rain fell on parts of Myrtle Beach.
Amounts of rain for Storm Events in Horry County
Storm Interval 1-hour Storm 24-hour Storm
5-year 2.48 in. 5.50 in
10-year 2.88 in. 6.55 in.
25-year 3.29 in. 7.60 in.
50-year 3.67 in. 8.35 in.
100-year 4.18 in. 9.60 in.
Source: National Climatic Data Center
The amount of flooding that a hurricane can cause is dependent upon several
variables, not the least of which is how close the storm actually comes to Myrtle Beach.
Other factors include the intensity of the storm (including wind speed and atmospheric
pressure), the direction from which it comes, and its timing relative to the tides. The U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers has prepared SLOSH maps estimating the flooding that would
occur in the worst possible situation, a slow moving storm (up to a category 5)
approaching the coast from the southeast at high tide. The resulting flooding from that
projection would encompass nearly the entire City of Myrtle Beach. Residents and
businessmen in the Grand Strand should be prepared for flooding somewhere between
our recent experiences and those worse case projections. Maps indicating the flood
effect of these potential storms are included in the appendix.
Historic Flood Damage
As mentioned earlier, the most severe floods in Myrtle Beach have been caused by
hurricanes and northeasters. Not only do such storms create floods, but they also cause
erosion, which increases the likelihood and severity of oceanfront flooding during
The following table, with data taken from the Federal Emergency Management
Agency’s Flood Insurance Study for Horry County (revised June 15, 1994), records some
of the most notable storms.
Major Storms Affecting the Myrtle Beach Area
Date of Storm Name of Storm
10/1-2 1929 ----------
10/15/1954 Hurricane Hazel
8/12/1955 Hurricane Connie
8/17/1955 Hurricane Diane
9/19/1955 Hurricane Ione
9/27/1958 Hurricane Helene
9/5/1979 Hurricane David
9/22/1989 Hurricane Hugo
7/11-12/1996 Hurricane Bertha
9/4-5/1996 Hurricane Fran
9/16/1999 Hurricane Floyd
9/16/2004 Hurricane Charley
Source: Myrtle Beach-Beach Management Plan
Probably the oldest of the storms still remembered by residents is Hurricane Hazel,
a category 4 storm (according to the Saffir/Simpson damage potential scale). It has been
estimated that sea levels rose 15.5 feet during the storm, that 990,000 cubic yards of
sand were eroded from the beach, and that wind and flood waters badly damaged or
destroyed more than 80 percent of the buildings along the oceanfront in Myrtle Beach.
Two northeasters struck the South Carolina coast within a month of each other. A
storm at the beginning of December 1986 had winds of 40 miles per hour and waves of
10 feet above mean sea level. A month later, on 1 and 2 January 1987, another
northeaster caused $6.8 million in damages (1987 dollars) in Horry County. The National
Weather Service considered that to be the worse storm in more than a decade.
The intensity and resulting damages of all those storms were surpassed on 22
September 1989, when Hurricane Hugo hit the South Carolina coast just north of
Charleston. Even though Hugo’s maximum winds were measured at 135 miles per hour
and the highest storm surge was 17 feet above mean sea level elsewhere in the state,
Myrtle Beach felt the effects of a storm that barely could be classified as a hurricane.
Sustained winds of 52 miles per hour and gusts of 76 miles per hour accompanied a
storm surge of approximately 13 feet in Myrtle Beach. The recovery costs to the
municipal government alone, from this storm, were in excess of $6 million. A massive
recovery effort was begun immediately in order to have the City ready for the next tourist
season, which generally begins Easter week. Needless to say, the total cost of Hugo
including lost income and revenue was an exponentiation of the City’s cost.
Hurricane Floyd in 1999 was the last major hurricane to hit Myrtle Beach. The
major inland flooding was exacerbated by Hurricane Dennis, which had glanced by the
coast only days before. Winds in Myrtle Beach reached 71 m.p.h. Damages resulting
from Floyd caused almost $600 million in damage in South Carolina (most of that in Horry
County). The evacuation for Floyd was the largest peacetime evacuation in the United
States. Myrtle Beach received more than 14.8 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, which
holds the state record for 24-hour precipitation in September, according to the South
Carolina Climatology Office.
Myrtle Beach was spared from intense damage this year when Hurricane Charley
passed by. The 60-m.p.h. winds upended trees and tore some signs before Charley left
behind 1,700 tons of debris.
Tropical Storm Systems/Hurricanes
Hurricanes and other tropical storm systems (tropical depressions, tropical storms,
etc) are perhaps the greatest hazard threatening Myrtle Beach. Not only is the
destructive power of these storms great, but also their probability of occurrence is high.
Hurricanes embody multiple threats:
• Beach erosion (and thus reduced protection against future floods)
• High winds (damage structures and trees)
• Falling trees and wind-thrown limbs (further damage to buildings)
• Downed power and telephone lines
• Contaminated water systems
All of these effects prolong the period of recovery. Additionally, moving thousands of
vacationers safely out of the City during an evacuation has, historically, been one of the
more challenging events surrounding a hurricane watch. A hurricane watch is issued by
the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Prediction Center when the area is
expecting conditions related to the storm strength (hurricane force or tropical storm-force
winds) within 36 hours. This is the first alert to emergency personnel and the general
public. A hurricane warning is issued by the same agency in the same manner within 24
hours of landfall. It is at this time that the decision to issue evacuation orders is made by
the Governor through the SC Emergency Preparedness Division.
Northeasters are also a common threat to the South Carolina coast. The high winds and
rain that are sustained over several days can cause flooding, wind damage, and beach
erosion. The winds and flooding of northeasters are less severe than that of hurricanes;
however, beach erosion is often worse, making beachfront property more susceptible to
future flooding. The Hazard Mitigation/Floodplain Committee looked at previous
occurrences for the past ten years. The 1993 nor’easter that hit Myrtle Beach during the
annual Can-Am festival had a definite impact on the local economy. The exact monetary
impact was not calculated prior to the incident, but the methodology to do so in the future
has been implemented since then. With typical methods of weather prediction, it is
possible to reliability project when northeasters will develop with sufficient warning time
for emergency personnel and the general public to prepare for the storm. The probability
of future events is minimum.
A tornado may occur with hurricanes or other severe summer thunderstorms, and
they usually arise over land or over water. Prior plans did not consider tornadoes to be a
severe threat; however, on July 6, 2001 a summer storm spun off two waterspouts that
danced along the coastline, then became tornadoes inland, leaving $8 million in damage
in their wake. The storm was classified as an F2 with wind speeds between 113 and 157
m.p.h. Hundreds of car windows were shattered in the streets. Many visitors watched
the funnel pass by their hotel rooms, as there was not enough warning time to evacuate
the thousands of vacationers in town for the Forth of July holiday. The 2nd Avenue Pier
suffered damage as well. Fortunately, there were no fatalities. Waterspouts, formed over
warm ocean waters, are generally considered to be less intense than a tornado. Local
history shows that they are able, however, to make landfall and incur serious damages.
Probably few visitors to the Grand Strand are aware that earthquakes are a possible
hazard to Myrtle Beach. Accounts of the 1886 earthquake that hit Charleston, as well as
the scars that are still visible on many buildings in that historic city, are proof that
earthquakes can cause substantial damage in coastal South Carolina. The state
Geological Service has a map that identifies all of the Myrtle Beach area as having soils
that are susceptible to liquefaction, and therefore has the potential to incur earthquake
damage. Although there have been no previous occurrences in Myrtle Beach, the City
annually adopts the most current International Building Code that requires buildings larger
than 5,000 square feet to be designed for seismic loading. Smaller buildings must be
designed to withstand 100 mph wind velocities, which would apply stresses similar to
those of an earthquake. The probability of future events is minimum.
Severe winter storms are huge, intense low-pressure systems that have the potential of
causing substantial damage to crops and property. If the storm is accompanied by high
winds or ice, damage can be severe. The loss of exposed power and telephone lines
from ice (or falling limbs) may require a significant amount of time and work before other
repairs and restoration can be accomplished. Although Horry County has been listed as
having an ice storm even as recently as 2004, the City of Myrtle Beach has no record of
ice storm within the last ten years. The probability of future events is minimum.
Drought conditions can be expected every 10 to 12 years, on average, in Horry County.
The effects of drought include loss of crops in the rural parts of the county and
ornamental landscaping in developed areas. In late August 1999, SCDNR included Horry
County in its list of counties experiencing moderate drought; however, it has not been
included since then, and the City of Myrtle Beach has not experienced drought status in
the past ten years. In the first week of September 1999, the drought counties were
upgraded to “severe” status – with the exception of Horry, Charleston, and Georgetown
Counties, whose drought had been mitigated by Hurricane Dennis. The probability of
future events is minimum.
Wildfires are usually caused by humans but can also be caused by lightning strikes
during severe storms. Wildfires are made more intense by drought or unmanaged
forests. There are no unmanaged forest areas in the City of Myrtle Beach, and there
have been no wildfires in the City in the past ten years. The community’s vulnerability,
and future probability for this event, is minimal. As development continues to expand into
the undeveloped areas of Horry County that abut the city limits, the probability of this
even will likely decrease.
Beach erosion is a possibility with every tropical storm system or northeaster that
hits Myrtle Beach. Historically, a portion of the beach washes away annually; however,
we have yet to see massive losses of beach sand such as seen at Figure 8 Island to the
north or Edisto Beach to the south. The City of Myrtle Beach has not historically had
catastrophic beach loss.
Hailstorms are difficult to predict, but often follow other storm systems such as tornadoes
and hurricanes. There is no historical record of significant damage due to hail. The
probability of future events is minimum.
According to the Geophysics Department of the University of Washington:
“A “tsunami” is a wave train, or series of waves, generated in a body of
water by an impulsive disturbance that vertically displaces the water
column. Earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, explosions, and
even the impact of cosmic bodies, such as meteorites, can generate
tsunamis. Tsunamis can savagely attack coastlines, causing
devastating property damage and loss of life.”
Although storm surges are monitored with every tropical storm event, rarely do
tsunamis or tidal waves occur along the Atlantic coast. There is no historical record of a
tsunami or tidal wave occurring in Myrtle Beach. Storm surges are monitored by the
National Weather Service and areas of potential loss to storm surges have been mapped
by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Hazardous Materials Incidents
The proliferation of personal and commercial swimming pools in the area is
accompanied by a large amount of chlorine chemicals contained in storerooms
throughout Myrtle Beach. Although there are strict standards concerning storage, the
occasional accident happens, as did in August, 2004. A brick wall that collapsed during
Hurricane Charley fell on a 160-gallon container of chlorine sodium bleach, which began
to leak. Additionally, in August, 2001, an improperly secured storage tank overturned in a
parking garage, forcing 400 hotel guests to be evacuated. Many pool owners are simply
not aware of the importance of storing their pool chemicals safely. Hazardous materials
incidents are nearly impossible to predict; one never knows when a gasoline tanker will
overturn on the highway.
The Myrtle Beach International Airport (owned and operated by Horry County) has
plans in place to address emergency response in case of an airline crash incident. The
City of Myrtle Beach is a mutual aid responder for any airline crashes that may occur.
There is no recent history of crashes as Myrtle Beach International Airport; however, the
airport is expanding and running more flights, creating more opportunity for an incident.
Acts of Terror
Myrtle Beach has not been identified in assessments as a high risk area, in part
due to the lack of “hard targets” in the City. The City of Myrtle Beach remains in close
contact with state and federal officials, and participates in both training classes and
response drills. There is no known history of acts of terror occurring in Myrtle Beach.
5. Problem Assessment
Mitigating the Oceanfront
The City of Myrtle Beach is blessed to be situated on approximately ten miles of
wide shores. The same coastline that attracts millions of visitors annually doubles as the
City’s most challenging area to protect. The oceanfront is, without question, vulnerable to
damage from winds, flooding, waterspouts, and storm surge. There are approximately
421 structures and two piers along the shore that constitute millions in property values,
according to Horry County tax assessor records.
General trends have been to build taller, bigger hotels/condominium projects in the
special flood hazard areas (specifically, the VE zones that are oceanfront). Though the
City’s Comprehensive Plan suggests a “retreat from the beach” developers are instead
utilizing Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) that have created building heights up to 180
feet. The flexibility of designing a PUD has given the City benefit in that many oceanfront
developments have provided open park space on the oceanfront through an alley swap
agreement. The initial subdivision of beachfront property was intended for cottages, and
lots were separated by 20-foot-wide public alleys. When cottages gave way to hotels,
development potential was limited by the small lot sizes bounded by public rights-of-way.
The City enacted guidelines in 1986 that would allow developers to move, or “swap,”
property rights (at no net loss of oceanfront) when they owned parcels separated by an
alley. The guidelines have resulted in two new oceanfront parks in the past four years.
Repetitive Loss Properties
FEMA’S National Flood Insurance Program designated Myrtle Beach as a
repetitive loss community in 1996 with 17 properties. Currently Myrtle Beach is listed with
64 repetitive loss properties. As shown on the Repetitive Loss Properties map (Appendix
A), the repetitive loss properties can be assigned to the one oceanfront area, three
riverine situations along swashes, and occasional isolated areas.
The oceanfront of Myrtle Beach stretches for the city’s entire length, approximately ten
miles. This area is exposed to flooding from storms that come in off the ocean,
hurricanes, waterspouts, and northeasters. Most of the repetitive loss properties in this
area are east of Ocean Boulevard, which generally corresponds to the VE zones on the
FEMA Federal Insurance Rate Maps. Myrtle Beach has 32 repetitive loss properties
within this area. The oceanfront in Myrtle Beach has relatively high elevations compared
to the barrier islands along the coast to the north and south.
Another repetitive loss area is associated with Deephead Swash between North Ocean
Boulevard and Pine Lake Drive. This repetitive loss area is second only to the ocean
front area for potential loss since it is subject to both riverine and coastal flooding. There
is a history of frequent flooding, on an average of slightly greater than once every year
and one half. This area, with interconnected lakes, is the bottom of an 820-acre
watershed. At high tide there is less than three feet of vertical fall in 1,000 feet of
horizontal run before the swash empties into the ocean. Thus, runoff during heavy rainfall
collects in the repetitive loss area and overruns the lower lakeshore and swash channel
as the ocean blocks the outfall of the swash. Work is currently underway on a series of
stormwater improvements at 53rd Avenue North that will ease the flooding in this area.
A third repetitive loss area is the Cane Patch Swash, located around 68th Avenue North
and crossing both North Ocean Boulevard and Kings Highway. The Cane Patch Swash
has been mitigated, particularly in the Porcher Drive area, and is currently less of a threat
than the Deephead Swash, but still bears mention.
Withers Swash is located between 11th Avenue South and 3rd Avenue South. Low
elevations on the northwestern side the tidal basin (west of Kings Highway) make this
area susceptible to flooding from water flowing downstream being blocked by tidal water
in the lower reaches of the basin or by coastal water pushed inland by hurricanes and
northeasters. The City has purchased property abutting this swash and created a park
and nature trail system. This swash system has had extensive remediation in the past
Other Frequently Flooded Areas
Several other areas of the City have a history of flooding. The relatively flat
topography and inadequately sized drainage facilities have combined to create ponding of
storm water. The frequently flooded areas include:
• The vicinity of Cedar Street, between 3rd Avenue North and 3rd Avenue South, in
the Summerwalk Apartment complex.
• Yaupon Street between 14th and 25th Avenues South, where storm water collects
on undeveloped land and the City right-of-way. The City is currently mitigating
• Chester Street near 16th Avenue North where the street floods and runs down a
• Low lying areas on Porcher Street, between 73rd and 76th Avenues North where
flooding conditions have been mitigated but not totally eliminated.
• 62nd Avenue North in the vicinity of Sancindy Lake. The city has piped storm water
outfall to the lake, which has relieved some of the flooding. However, the lack of a
maintenance easement for the lake discharge ditch prevents any additional
Critical Facilities and Their Flood Zones
Emergency Operations Center Flood Zone X (white)
City Services Building Flood Zone X (white)
Surface Water Treatment Plane Flood Zone X (white)
Fire Station 1 Flood Zone X (white)
Fire Station 2 Flood Zone X (gray) & AE (EL 15)
Fire Station 3 Flood Zone X (white)
Fire Station 4 Flood Zone X (white)
Fire Training Facility Flood Zone X (white)
Convention Center Flood Zone X (white)
Equipment Maintenance Flood Zone X (white)
Purchasing Flood Zone X (white)
Solid Waste Transfer Station Flood Zone X (white)
Sewer Lift Stations (85) Flood Zone X (white), X (gray), AE, & VE
Elevated Water Storage Tanks (12) Flood Zone X (white), X (gray), AE, & VE
Ground Level Water Storage Tanks (4) Flood Zone X (white), X (gray), AE, & VE
Deep Wells (stand by emergency use) (31) Flood Zone X (white), X (gray), AE, & VE
Santee Cooper Electric Substations (5) Flood Zone X (white)
Highway 501 Bridge Flood Zone X (white)
Grand Strand Regional Medical Center Flood Zone X (white)
Covenant Towers Flood Zone X (white)
Myrtle Beach International Airport Flood Zone X (white)
Myrtle Beach Primary School Flood Zone X (white)
Myrtle Beach Elementary School Flood Zone X (white)
Myrtle Beach Middle School Flood Zone X (white)
Myrtle Beach High School Flood Zone X (white)
Tropical Storm Systems/Hurricanes
Buildings in the special flood hazard areas (SFHA ) such as the oceanfront are
susceptible to damage when a tropical storm system of any size threatens Myrtle Beach.
Damage could include, but is not limited to: flooding, lost roofing or siding materials, fallen
trees on property, or downed power lines. Future losses could be greater, as current
trends have commercial hotel properties tearing down existing buildings and rebuilding
higher structures with more units. One of the positives of this trend is that older buildings
are being replaced by new construction built to stronger building codes and floodplain
regulations. The City of Myrtle Beach has approximately 2161 buildings in the special
flood hazard area (SFHA); approximately 510 of those are commercial uses, 196 are
multifamily (condos, etc), 389 outbuildings and 1,061 residential uses. Any of these
buildings are susceptible to damage when a tropical storm system of any size threatens
Outside of the SFHA, a majority of the properties in the City of Myrtle Beach are
vulnerable to the storm surge from tropical storm systems. Appendix B shows a
vulnerability map for storm surges, category 1 through 5, based on information from the
US Army Corps of Engineers.
Any home in the City of Myrtle Beach is at risk of damage when nor’easters hit, but
oceanfront properties are especially vulnerable as they are the first ones hit when the
winds come off the Atlantic. The wind gusts associated with nor’easters can exceed
hurricane forces and produce oversized waves that crash onto the shore, potentially
resulting in structural damage or beach erosion. The potential damages are the same as
tropical storm systems, with the added threat of snow or hail. The City of Myrtle Beach
utilizes the International Building Code, which requires that new structures are built to
withstand wind speeds of up to 130 m.p.h.
When the 2001 waterspout landed and worked its way south from the Pavilion at 8th
Avenue North, more than $8 million in damages were left behind – much of that from
broken windows in cars and hotel rooms. Many of the hotels affected most by the wind
were pre-NFIP buildings. Current building codes require windows to be constructed to
meet wind loads of 130 m.p.h. Oceanfront properties are most at-risk to damage from the
landfall of a waterspout; otherwise, all properties in the City of Myrtle Beach are at equal
risk to damage due to the intense winds associated with tornadoes.
The 1886 Charleston earthquake is the point of reference for historical earthquake
damages in coastal South Carolina. Historical accounts report that more than $5 million
in damages (equivalent to $97 million by 2003 standards) and approximately 60 deaths
were recorded in the aftermath. According to the South Carolina Seismic Network, the
closest earthquake activity (1698 – 1998) to Myrtle Beach has occurred in Clarendon,
Williamsburg, and Dorchester Counties. Appendix C shows the approximate location of
the seismic line that runs through Horry County near Myrtle Beach. The graphic below
shows the seismic hazard probability for South Carolina (source: USGS).
Additionally, the International Building Code requires that structure design meet class
requirements for resistance to seismic movements, and the City adopts the IBS
regulations by resolution.
Ice Storms/Winter Storms
The loss of exposed power and telephone lines from ice was a risk factor
throughout the City of Myrtle Beach prior to a joint effort with Santee Cooper to put utilities
underground wherever possible. Areas such as the 21st Avenue North Planned Unit
Development (PUD) and North Ocean Boulevard (between 9th Avenue North and Mr. Joe
White Avenue) have proven to successfully buffer utility lines from above-ground hazards.
A majority of the city, however, is still near to and served by above-ground utilities; there
remains a risk of being affected by downed lines due to ice or falling limbs. The
probability of ice storms is low in Myrtle Beach, and there is little historical record of utility
damage to on which to base loss estimates. The City continues to work with utility
companies, redevelopment agencies, and developers
The most vulnerable aspect of drought in the City of Myrtle Beach is the water
supply. The city draws its water from the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), which enters the
state of South Carolina near the headwaters of Little River. During a drought, when the
water levels of the ICW are low, salt water may reach the City’s intake. The system is not
set up to convert saline water to potable, so the City monitors the water quality of the ICW
closely. Infiltration of salt water to the intake valve would cause a water plant shutdown;
the City would then revert to its wells and water tanks until the tide reversed. There are
sufficient safety measures in place to say that there is little likelihood of salt water
infiltration to the City’s water intake. Private development trends include plans for a
proposed marina near the City’s water intake (the marina is upstream of the intake during
high tide and downstream of the intake during low tide).
Wildfires are more predominant in rural or preservation areas. There is no recent
history of wildfires in the City of Myrtle Beach; however, an 80+-acre undeveloped tract of
land (off of Robert M Grissom Parkway) that is not in the City’s jurisdiction, is surrounded
by it. The property is abutted by the Canal Street neighborhood, the US Highway 501
corridor, Seaboard Industrial Park, and Mr. Joe White Avenue. An uncontrolled fire on
this property would have the potential to damage all abutting buildings. At that point, it
would cease to be a “wildfire” and become an series of structure fires. The City of Myrtle
Beach’s Fire Department has been trained by the SC Urban Forestry Commission in the
“FireWise” program, and recently received an ISO rating of “1” – representing the best
possible score for fire service.
Beach erosion directly affects the oceanfront properties that are protected from
storm surges by the dunes. The Public Works Department estimates that Myrtle Beach
has experienced approximately 25% beach loss in the last five years, but beach
renourishment projects and the natural cycle of beach replenishment help maintain the
nine (9) foot elevations on the beach. Development is prohibited on the water side of the
dune line in order to further protect the beach. In addition, the City uses sand fences to
re-create lost dunes and has a program of sea grass planting and maintenance to ensure
healthy dunes. Regulations are in place that prohibit the destruction of dunes and
severely restrict walkways that may be built over the dunes for beach access. Public
beach access is limited to specific points along the shore, and signs listing the beach
regulations are posted there. The Public Works Department also participates in beach
reviews with the Army Corps of Engineers, who monitor erosion rates where beach
renourishment has been completed.
There is no historical record of significant damage due to hail. All structures are
vulnerable to storm damage when hail occurs, although structural damage by hail is
minimal. Damage by hail is more often seen on automobiles and personal pleasure
vehicles (boats, jet skis, etc).
There is no historical record of a tidal wave occurring in Myrtle Beach. Storm
surges are monitored by the National Weather Service and areas of potential loss to
storm surges have been mapped by the Army Corps of Engineers. If Myrtle Beach were
to experience a tidal wave, the oceanfront properties would be the ones most at risk for
damage. Damages would be similar to those of hurricane and flood hazards.
Hazardous Materials Incidents
Hazardous materials incidents are extremely varied in size, materials involved, and
location – making the extremely difficult to predict. The City of Myrtle Beach Fire
Department trains all fire personnel to certified HazMat Technician level in order to be
better prepared for whatever incident may arise. Most recent hazardous materials
incidents are the result of either a natural storm event causing damage to a storage
building that held the chemicals, or are due to operator error in storing the materials.
They all included successful evacuations of the affected areas. Hotels with multiple pool
systems are in a higher risk category than residences with pools. The city’s code allows
pool storage rooms in the flood plain without requiring elevation above the base flood line,
so the potential exists for pollution hazards as well.
Air traffic to the Myrtle Beach International Airport includes both commercial
passenger flights (from commuter-sized planes to jets) and cargo flights. There are
several homes in close proximity to the runways; additionally, the runways are bounded
by both highways and water (Ocean Boulevard, US Highway 17 Business and the Atlantic
Ocean to the east; US Highway 17 Bypass and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to the
west). Potential crash scenarios include crashes into water; crashes into one of the many
neighborhoods in the flight path or near the runways; and large-scale hazardous materials
incidents. Any incident that would result in shutting down the airport would have the
additional economic impact on the tourism economy. There is no recent history of
crashes at Myrtle Beach International Airport; however, the airport is expanding and
running more flights, creating more opportunity for an incident. Future plans for the
airport include an updated, expanded terminal.
Acts of Terror
Terrorist acts in the United have affects States have proven to to more than just
the areas targeted for attack. In the wake of September 11, 2001, the Myrtle Beach area
experienced a slump in tourism dollars due to cancelled travel and consumer shock.
Myrtle Beach has not been identified in assessments as a high risk area, in part due to
the lack of “hard targets” in the City, and there is no known history of acts of terror
occurring in Myrtle Beach. But as Myrtle Beach is often ranked as the #2 destination of
choice on the east coast (behind Orlando, FL), it is worth mentioning that a group wanting
to create mass hysteria could chose a popular vacation spot during the peak of the
season. The potential impacts to the community are numerous, including loss of life and
property; loss of tourism revenues; and the expense of cleanup efforts. The City of Myrtle
Beach remains in close contact with state and federal officials, and participates in both
training classes and response drills.
6. Community Goals
Based on goals and strategies developed through the visioning process and those in
the comprehensive plan, the following goals are established to guide the Hazard
• Protect life and property from the hazards of wind, rain, flooding and ocean surge.
• Preserve the beaches, wetlands, swashes and waterways.
• Continue to develop and implement storm water drainage plans.
• Protect and ensure a quality supply of drinking water.
• Improve and ensure adequate public safety services and essential municipal
services under normal and emergency conditions.
• Preserve the existing land use plan, most especially the residential neighborhoods.
• Reduce economic impact from the effects of a hazard event.
Actions Previously Taken to Reduce Flood and Other Hazard Damages
In December of 1984 City Council enacted an ordinance that created a coastal
protection zone with a building control line based on the location of the 50 year dune crest
located 34 feet landward of the then present ideal dune line. This ordinance also
restricted the activities that could occur in the zone in order to preserve the natural beach,
control erosion and promote public safety. The Zoning Administrator has the
responsibility for enforcing his ordinance.
In October of 1985 City Council adopted a storm water management ordinance
restricting the peak rate of discharge and volume from a site to the rate and volume
existing prior to any site development, based on a twenty-five year, twenty-four hour
storm. A soil erosion and sediment control plan is required as a part of a storm water
management plan submission. The city Engineer has the responsibility for enforcing this
Between 1990 and 1992 the City relocated all sewer mains that had been located
seaward of oceanfront properties landward into the Ocean Boulevard ROW, in order to
reduce the possibility of storm damage.
In December of 1991 City Council adopted an ordinance that revised the City’s
Floodplain Management Regulations, which resulted in the City entering FEMA’S
Community Rating System (CRS) program with a class 7 rating; since that time, with
additional work, the City has progressed to a class 5 CRS rating. Some of the highlights
of the revised regulations and ongoing programs are a minimum three feet freeboard
requirement; a perpetual cumulative substantial improvement regulation; an annual
notification of all property owners in and near a special flood hazard area apprising them
of the hazards and availability of flood insurance; an annual notification to realtors
informing them of the city’s participation in the NFIP and the availability of information
regarding floodplain determinations at no fee to the inquirer; and promulgation of the fact
that a complete set of floodplain regulations and requirements is available in the City’s
Chapin Library. The Floodplain Coordinator has the responsibility for maintaining records
relating to the CRS and works with other departments to draft plans required by the NFIP,
FEMA, and the CRS.
In 1996 the City started work on a regional storm water detention pond and
associated curb, gutter and storm water collection system for the Booker T. Washington
neighborhood. This project encompasses an area in excess of 150 acres and was
completed in the summer of 1998.
The City owns 13 acres of pristine property in an AE (EL 13) flood zone along
Withers Swash. This property, which drains to a brackish creek leading to the ocean, is
protected from development. Downstream from this parcel the city has constructed a
1300 feet long wooden boardwalk along the bank of the brackish creek which is a
dedicated nature trail containing informational plaques depicting the flora and fauna living
in the creek. Previous improvements to the area include a neighborhood park with
playground equipment, gazebo over the swash, and picnic facilities.
The Construction Services department has implemented a policy that requires
property owners to sign and agree not to convert areas below the base flood elevation in
violation of the floodplain regulations. When buildings in the flood zone are completed,
the areas below the base flood elevation are open and uninhabited in compliance with
In 2001, the city’s voters approved a $25 million bond referendum to fund
improvements to the city’s storm water management facilities, including improvements in
the Cane Patch Swash, Deep Head Swash, Yaupon Drive, and Withers Swash drainage
basins. Currently in the third year of the bond, work continues on the Deep Head Swash
and Yaupon Drive basins; work on the Cane Patch and Withers Swash basins has been
completed. The Public Works Department has responsibility for overseeing the
In 2003, the City of Myrtle Beach was awarded “Storm-Ready Community” status
by the National Weather Service. A community that is deemed “Storm-Ready” has
established a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center; has more than
one way to receive severe weather forecasts and warnings and to alert the public; has a
system that monitors local weather conditions; promotes the importance of public
readiness through community seminars; and has a hazardous weather plan, including
training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises. The Police Chief
works with other departments to maintain this designation.
In 2004, the City’s Fire Department was awarded a class 1 rating from ISO.
Standards that the Fire Department enacted and continued in order to receive the rating
included hazardous materials training for all fire personnel; multi-hazard drills with county
and state agencies regarding hazardous materials incidents, airline crashes, and terror
attacks; detailed response analyses to reduce response times; and a plan for a new fire
station (outside of the flood plain) and additional staff to increase service levels. The Fire
Department works with other departments to maintain this rating.
The Construction Services Department follows state mandate and uses the most
currently adopted International Building Code.
7. Review of Possible Community Activities
Using the Unified National Program for Floodplain Management Strategies and
Tools, the committee investigated and reviewed possible activities that could reduce or
eliminate potential flood damage in the repetitive loss areas including those necessary to
protect critical services, preserve the beaches, wetlands and swashes. Those activites
became part of the action plan.
8. Action Plan
The Hazard Mitigation/Floodplain Management committee reviewed the ten natural and
three man-made hazards referred to in this document. They concluded that only two
hazards (flooding and the flooding subsequent to tropical storm systems/hurricanes) had
the highest probabilities and greatest impact to the community. Therefore, the committee
decided to prioritize activities that addressed those hazards.
The city is obligated to continue renourishment on an eight-year cycle for the next
50 years, based on the availability of funding for the federal government’s share of the
cost. Primary responsibility for continuation of the program is with City Council and City
Manager as assisted by the Director of Public Works.
Any shift of the baseline resulting from renourishment is under the control of the
Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. However, the City takes the
position that any shift of the baseline seaward of its present location would be counter
productive to the overall mitigation policy of retreat from the shoreline.
Additionally, a study should be performed to investigate the cost of constructing a
second line of dunes using sand fencing. Funding sources should be researched in order
to find outside grants for beach protection. Responsibility for the study would be with the
Department of Public Works, with assistance from other departments as needed.
There are three (3) stormwater projects currently developed but not funded: the 4th
Avenue North Plan; the 24th Avenue North Plan; and the Downtown Redevelopment
Corporation (DRC) Area Plan. Funding is being researched and appropriated to begin
work on these drainage basins.
Regional Stormwater Retention
A study for a regional storm water system for the former U.S.Air Force Base has
been completed and work on the regional stormwater ponds is progressing. This is a joint
effort between The Base Redevelopment Authority and The City of Myrtle Beach. The
system is planned to be in place within the next three to five years.
SFHA Study for Former Air Force Base
The former U.S. Air Force Base property was not included in the special flood
hazard area studies done for Horry County; therefore the entire property is designated as
outside the 500year flood zone. There is a completed master storm water plan for the
entire tract. Existing outfalls are designed to accommodate a 500- year rainfall event,
however a storm surge study has not been done, which leaves a portion of the property in
doubt as to potential for flooding.
A request to FEMA for mapping project under their Limited Map Maintenance
Program, to map the storm surge potential should be made within three months of
adoption of this plan. The City’s portion of the cost for this action could be absorbed by
the operating budget. Primary city responsibility for this project is with the Floodplain
Coordinator and the Public Works Department.
Acquire Additional Swash and Wetland Areas
Swashes and wetlands play an important role in the quality and management of
storm water runoff. Therefore, the acquisition of properties encompassing swashes or
wetlands should be considered coincidentally with the delineation of drainage basins and
the feasibility of regional retention basins. The cost of acquisition of land should be
researched and budgeted as funds become available. Primary responsibility for this
action is with the Department of Public Works, assisted by the City Council and the City
Manager and other staff as needed.
Set Minimum Finished Floor Height
In order to reduce damages from localized flooding during and after periods of
heavy rainfall the zoning ordinance should be revised as follows:
(add) 901.23 Minimum finished floor elevation. All habitable structures
shall have the lowest floor elevation no less than 24 inches above the
highest crown of any abutting street. Final site grading shall insure that
ponding of storm water will not occur beneath the building nor nearer than
three feet to its perimeter.
This change to the Zoning Ordinance should be made within the next 12 months.
The cost to the City for this action could be absorbed by the operating budget. Primary
responsibility for this action is with City Council, the Planning Commission, the Zoning
Administrator and the Chief Building Official.
No Net Loss of Fill
When fill is placed on a parcel in a special flood hazard area (SFHA), the volume
of water displaced proportionately increases the water depth. Therefore, as fill is placed
in a SFHA, flooding occurs in areas that were previously not subject to flooding the flood
limits. The net result is that lands previously not subject to flooding become flooded. To
off-set the flooding, the zoning ordinance (Section 909) should be amended by adding a
new sub-section as follows:
909.10.6 Placement of fill. When any fill is placed on a property there
shall be an excavation within the SFHA on the same property the volume
of which is equal to, or greater than, the volume of fill placed. The volume
excavated must be totally above the existing groundwater table on the
This change to the Zoning Ordinance should be made within the next 12 months.
The cost to the City for this action could be absorbed by the operating budget. Primary
responsibility for this action is with City Council, the Planning Commission, the Zoning
Administrator and the Chief Building Official.
Acquire Easements or Property to Correct Localized Drainage Problems
Isolated areas of the City are prone to localized flooding because of a lack of
control over the property required to install corrective measures. The City should
continue to purchase property or acquire easements, through condemnation if necessary,
to install viable storm water collection systems. The cost of acquisition of land should be
researched and budgeted as funds become available. The Department of Public Works,
with City Council and the City Manager assistance, has primary responsibility for this
Plan to Increase Community Rating System (CRS) Points
The Insurance Services Office (ISO) is due to revisit Myrtle Beach’s class 5 rating
next year. It is appropriate at that time, if there are enough points, to apply for a
reclassification, and a plan should be implemented to move Myrtle Beach’s ISO/CRS
rating to class 4. According to data from ISO, increasing the rating by one point equals
more than $70,000 in flood insurance savings for flood insurance policyholders in Myrtle
Beach. The Floodplain Coordinator, with assistance from the Floodplain Management
and Hazard Mitigation Committee, has primary responsibility for creating the plan.
Improvement of Emergency Warning System
Past feasibility studies of emergency warning systems did not uncover a system
that would be adequately and accurately warn both citizens and tourists of impending
hazards. The small window of opportunity between evacuation notice and completion of
evacuation necessitates a warning system that can alert the residents and visitors at any
time of the day or night regardless of where they might be, in bed, on the beach, at a
Recent developments in data collection and equipment, however, have led the
County to work toward developing a “reverse 911” system, where emergency broadcasts
are sent from the emergency operations center to phone numbers stored in the dispatch
database. This system has been reviewed by city staff and funding is currently being
researched; continued exploration of funding sources should be encouraged. It would
provide a substantial increase in successful notification over the current methods.
Hazard Related Economic Losses
Create a business task group to establish guidelines for the mitigation of hazard
related economic losses to the community. Primary responsibility for creation of the task
group is with the Director of Planning, Planning Commission, City Manager and City
Prioritization of Action Plan Steps
The Floodplain Management and Hazard Mitigation Committee will convene and
prioritize the planning steps, based on cost/benefit review and timeframe. Those actions
that have little more than operating costs will be given priority over more costly and more
9. Adoption of Plan
City Council has adopted this Floodplain Management and Hazard Mitigation Plan by
resolution during a regularly scheduled public meeting on October 26, 2004. A copy of
the resolution is in the appendix.
10. Implementation of Plan
The activities adopted in Section 9 of this plan shall be monitored by the committee
established in Section 1. The committee shall meet in March of every year to evaluate
the progress attained and to revise, where needed, the activities set forth in the plan. The
report of their findings and recommendations shall be reported to City Council at their first
regularly scheduled meeting in April. On the fifth year of the cycle, the plan will be
reevaluated, presented to the public for input, and then presented to the City Council for
Portions of this plan have been incorporated into all of the documents listed under Section
3 of this plan (page 4). The process for the incorporation of the mitigation elements into
those documents was established in the 1998 version of the plan. This process included,
but was not limited to, including the mitigation plan by reference and taking actions from
the other plans to include in this mitigation plan. Within the 2004 process, including other
plans by reference is standard planning procedure and has been used in the documents
referred to on page 4.