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      Hotels scramble to comply with FEMA pool rule

      The manager of the Myrtle Beach Hampton Inn isn't sure what to do to close off his outdoor pool to make it an indoor pool this winter.

      Just days before Halloween, a federal rule about swimming pool enclosures has come back to haunt some Myrtle Beach hoteliers.

      FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, doesn't allow oceanfront hotels to close off their pools with glass walls for the winter. This year, the agency will make sure that rule is enforced, whether the city and the hotels like it or not.

      In response to FEMA, the manager of the Myrtle Beach Hampton Inn isn't sure what to do to close off his outdoor pool to make it an indoor pool this winter.

      If he puts up the same glass walls the hotel has been using for years, he'll be in violation of the FEMA rule. But if he doesn't, the hotel will lose customers.

      "It's too cold to swim in the wintertime, even though the pools are heated. It needs to be enclosed," said manager Tom Moore.

      The hotel could buy Plexiglas or vinyl enclosures that FEMA allows, but Moore says that would cost up to $20,000 the hotel hasn't budgeted for.

      A couple of years ago, FEMA first became aware of the glass walls used by oceanfront hotels and decided they were hazardous, but the rule wasn't enforced.

      Then this summer, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce announced it had pushed a bill through the U.S. House of Representatives to allow the enclosures. Hoteliers thought the problem was solved and that was the end of it.

      But the bill never came up for a vote in the Senate, the Senate has adjourned until mid-November and FEMA has now told the city of Myrtle Beach: time's up, enforce the rule or else.

      "We've sent letters to all the hotels that are affected, saying November first is when the rule takes effect. You will not put up your temporary pool enclosures that violate FEMA's regulations then or expect the consequences," said city spokesman Mark Kruea.

      Moore doesn't blame the city. He says it has no choice but to enforce FEMA's rule. But he says something has to be done soon or he'll lose guests who want indoor pools.

      "People have come to expect that and they'll just have to go elsewhere," Moore said.

      What's frustrating for Moore and the other hoteliers is that FEMA says the glass walls would be hazardous in a hurricane, but the hotels don't put the glass walls up until after hurricane season is over.

      The pool enclosure issue affects about 30 hotels and condos in Myrtle Beach