Irene hurts Grand Strand economy

Horry County's damage assessment of Hurricane Irene found no significant damage to the beach, road infrastructure or buildings.

Myrtle Beach's assessment mimics that of the county. The city received five reports of damaged signs and awnings from Hurricane Irene's wind and rain. Damages that Myrtle Beach City spokesman Mark Kruea says will cost the city an estimated $3,000.

"We only had minor damages, nothing too extreme," Kruea says. "Just some down powerlines and trees."

While the physical damages can be measured and seen in broken tree limbs and branches across the Grand Strand, its economic impact can be measured in dollars and cents.

"It's an excess of $100,000 in loses," says business owner Mark Lazarus. His two amusement parks on the Grand Strand closed in anticipation of Irene. One closed Friday and Saturday while the other closed Friday through Sunday.

"With all the rain that we received, we had to make sure the PH levels were correct in all the pools," says Lazarus. "We had some landscaping issues we had to deal with, and the people who showed up Sunday were season ticket holders because many tourists did not stay."

He says even with the local crowd on Sunday, his sales were down for a weekend during the peak of summer season.

Ocean Lakes Family Campground also took a hit from Irene. Spokeswoman Barb Krumm says even with their popular 13th annual Blue Grass Festival this past weekend, numbers were down.

"Condo rentals were down significantly, but what took a major hit was our camper sites," says Krumm. "We looked at the numbers from the weekend before Labor Day last year and with Irene threatening us, we were down 50 percent." She says Irene costs the campground tens of thousands in revenue.

Though Irene cost the Grand Strand financially this past weekend, optimism is still high for businesses. Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Nora Hembree says businesses were prepared for losses. But with minimal physical damages, they hope to rebound for this Labor Day weekend.

"We know they did certainly take a hit. The good news is that we didn't really suffer any physical damages from the hurricane," says Hembree. "We are able to bounce back quickly. We've got Labor Day weekend this weekend and from what I've heard from businesses, it's shaping up to be a pretty big weekend."

"I heard the North Carolina beaches aren't going to get back open, so if that happens we might get some people to come down," says Lazarus.