Originally created 09/16/99

Residents empty Myrtle Beach



MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- An abandoned city, normally bustling with tourists, waited quietly late Wednesday for Mother Nature's wrath.

Pounding surf and rain blowing in sheets were the only sounds along the beach. An eerie haze hung over the sea.

Traffic lights blinked yellow, cautioning the only people still around: police, public works employees and journalists.

Vacancy signs flashed at many hotels.

Early in the day, stragglers caught the last bus out of town.

At 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Joe Rodfern, 44, Chris Hornsby, 22, and Kim Mau, 22, sat soaking wet, waiting to be taken to an emergency shelter. The last public transit pulled out at noon.

"We wanted to stay," Ms. Mau said. "We didn't want to leave. They kicked us out."

"I've lived here 22 years and been through millions of these storms," Mr. Hornsby said. "They don't bother me."

Residents who escaped early left behind their thoughts on the storm the size of Texas.

"Floyd. Hang a right and get lost!!!!" flashed one electric billboard at a car dealership.

Another, "Floyd 99. Can't touch us," was spray-painted on plywood board protecting an oceanfront shop window.

But only a few souls were willing to put that sentiment to a test.

"It's kind of a peculiar time right now," said Otto Saddlemire as he stood on a ladder at his boarded-up house taking the glass out of the porch light.

He and Ellen Walker decided not to evacuate.

"This morning, we had lobster and champagne for breakfast at a friend's restaurant," Ms. Walker said. "It sounds stupid, but they had to cook the lobster."

Ms. Walker said she evacuated for Hurricane Andrew when she lived in South Florida, but it took nearly a week to get back home.

"This is your largest asset -- your house," she said. "There are a lot of scallywags and scoundrels around."

REACH

Jessica Rinck at (706) 823-3225.