CHARLESTON, S.C. — With the summer tourist season underway on the South Carolina coast, millions will flock to the shore for a season of sun, surf and perhaps storms. New online sites will help visitors find beach access points along the state's 190 mile coast when it's sunny and evacuation routes when skies turn stormy. A glance at the Summer of '15:
South Carolina has already seen one storm this season: Tropical Storm Ana made landfall near Myrtle Beach on May 10 with blustery winds and rain. The 2015 Atlantic Hurricane season begins Monday and Gov. Nikki Haley has declared this week Hurricane Awareness Week. She says coastal residents should prepare because many have never experienced a major hurricane and may not understand the impacts.
The state Emergency Management Division is releasing its annual hurricane guide in Sunday coastal newspapers and at Department of Motor Vehicle Offices in coastal counties. It can be downloaded at www.scemd.org . The "Know Your Zone" section of the site includes an interactive map with evacuation routes and links to county emergency management pages. Evacuation routes are also available at the state Department of Transportation site (www.dot.state.sc.us ).
When No Storm Clouds are in Sight
It's easier this summer to find your way to the beach with the Department of Health and Environmental Control's new public beach access application. The site (gis.dhec.sc.gov/beachaccess ) lists all 620 public beach access points along South Carolina's almost 190 miles of coastline. It also lets visitors search for access points in specific towns or with specific amenities such as parking, restrooms or that are accessible to the disabled.
Record Year Expected
Summer is the busiest time for South Carolina's $18 billion tourism industry and a strong economy and low gas prices are expected to mean another record year. The numbers so far look good. On Hilton Head Island, for example, figures from Smith Travel Research show that, through the end of March hotel, home and villa occupancy was up 11 percent while the average daily rate charged was up almost 5 percent from the same period last year.
Charleston Still Cooking
The summer heat and humidity may make it a bit oppressive for sightseeing in Charleston's historic district. But restaurants have air conditioning and the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau notes that a dozen new ones have opened in the city in just the past three months alone.