BRUNSWICK UPDATES: Possible tornadoes; 22,000 without power; Sunset Beach bridge closed

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Along with tonadoes, another big concern for Brunswick was storm surge, especially in low-lying areas near the ocean.

BOLIVIA — Brunswick emergency officials said Monday night they had received reports of possible tornadoes touching down in several parts of the county as Hurricane Isaias continued to bear down on the Cape Fear Region. Emergency Services was working to confirm the reports and assess any injuries or damages, county officials said in a 10 p.m. news release.

The county remains under a hurricane warning until further notice and a flash flood watch and tornado watch until 2 a.m. Tuesday. Tornado warnings have been issued in several parts of the county but as of 10 p.m. none remained active. A countywide curfew is in effect until 6 a.m. Tuesday.

(Individuals can sign up to receive emergency alerts concerning tornado watches and warnings and other weather-related alerts through the Brunswick County CodeRED alert system.)

As the hurricane began to move onshore near the S.C.-N.C. border, electric outages were quickly escalating. As of 10:20 p.m., Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation said nearly 20,500 customers in the county had lost power — about 23% of its 87,000 customers in Brunswick. Duke Energy was reporting that about 1,650 of its 16,300 Brunswick customers were without power.

Conditions were rapidly deteriorating as heavy rains and winds began to pound the area, creating extremely dangerous conditions on roadways. At Sunset Beach, sustained wind speeds at the top of the bridge are currently at 45 mph and police have closd thge bridge and those still on the beach should shelter in place.

At 7:49 p.m., a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located near Yaupon Beach, moving northwest at 45 mph. The alert from the NWS said that radar indicated rotation, suggesting possible tornadic activity in the area. It was not known yet if any tornadoes actually touched down.

As of 9:15 p.m., those warnings had expired but the entire county was under a tornado watch, as severe thunderstorms associated with Isaias made conditions favorable for tornadoes and waterspouts.

Along with tonadoes, another big concern for Brunswick was storm surge, especially in low-lying areas near the ocean.

Ohio family riding out first hurricane

CALABASH — Rita and Ron Rice and their extended family have been making the trip from Canton, Ohio, to coastal Brunswick County for 12 years and have never experienced bad weather.

Their luck ran out this time — the Ocean Isle Beach vacation rental they had booked closed on Saturday to prepare for Tropical Storm Isaias. Instead of heading back home, the determined travelers found a place in Little River, S.C., to ride out the storm and hoped to check into their original destination after Isaias moved out of the area.

“We made the trip down here and are just going to try to enjoy it while we can,” Ron Rice said Monday afternoon as the Canton clan bided their time in the shade of the porch at Callahan’s gift store.

The family members, who are used to snowstorms but not tropical storms, admitted they were excited to experience what might be their first hurricane — as long as no one gets hurt and any damage is minimal, they were quick to note.

Inside Callahan’s, Jesse Bellamy, who grew up in coastal Brunswick County, was working behind the counter. The glass-fronted building looks especially vulnerable to high winds and flying debris, but Bellamy said the store wasn’t going to board up unless the storm strengthened significantly.

“With this one we’re not going to do too much since it looks like it’s going to be a tropical storm,” Bellamy said.

He said the store had been fairly busy, considering that a tropical storm — maybe strengthening to a hurricane — was imminent. Bellamy said it was business as usual for the tourists coming stopping at the store.

“A lot of them didn’t seem to know a storm was coming,” he said. “They are buying sunglasses.”

Tornadoes threw Carolina Shores a curve ball

Sharon Morgans, Bellamy’s colleague at the shop counter, had reason to take the modest storm a bit more seriously than some.

Morgans, who lives a few miles down the road in The Farm, in Carolina Shores, knows that even a daily weak storm can cause major problems. When Hurricane Dorian came through the area last September, the storm spawned tornadoes that tore through The Farms neighborhood, causing significant damage to homes.

Fortunately for Morgans, her home was not damaged.

“We just watched it go by,” she said. “You don’t think of that happening down here.”

Last-minute fun in Southport

People were milling around downtown Southport on Monday afternoon. Other than an overcast sky, the only indication that a potential hurricane in Tropical Storm Isaias was set to arrive later in the day was the occasional boarded-up business.

Those shops that were open benefited from the foot traffic.

John Davidson, who works at the Silver Coast Winery Tasting Room on Howe Street, said it has been busier than a typical Monday.

“Mostly outgoing sales,” he said. “There are definitely people out.”

He remembers doing a lot of business before and after Hurricane Florence, too.

This year, though, things have been a little different. The business served as a bottle shop during the early restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. The winery has also been able to open in a limited capacity more recently.

Davidson also said he’s seen a 30 percent bump in sales since ferry service resumed in late July.

The shop will be open until 5 p.m. Monday for those who want to stock up before Isaias arrives.

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