Fires that swept through Horry County, S.C. are controlled and rally hosts say Harley Week and the Atlantic Beach Bikefest rallies are on. â€œThe fire hasnâ€™t affected anything for bike week,â€ says Mike Shank, owner of rally organizer Festival Promotions. He adds that because of the city of Myrtle Beachâ€™s new biker ordinances, â€œWeâ€™re anxious to see what happens. Thereâ€™s still a lot of misinformation out there and we have to get this one behind us.â€
The county closed its emergency operations center May 1, although the South Carolina Highway Patrol is still closing some sections of roads overnight due to smoke. Horry Countyâ€™s Emergency Management Division was reporting the fire 85 percent contained, though fire officials said it could take weeks to be sure every spark is gone.
The fire charred 20,500 acres, destroyed 76 homes and damaged 96 more. The damage is estimated at $15.4 million, according to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division. Damage to homes was primarily at Barefoot Resort, which is behind Barefoot Landing.
Lisa Bourcier, spokeswoman for Horry County, says the highway closures are the only change in Horry County that might affect the May rallies.
Sections of highways 31, 22 and 90 are being closed from 8:30 p.m. to 10 a.m. If expected rain sets in this week, it could help bring the fires under control and eliminate the need for further overnight closures, she said.
But rally proponents say theyâ€™re going full speed ahead.
The fire damage is apparent in some areas, while other places are unscathed.
â€œThey will get to see the fire, they will get to see the burns,â€ says Ashley White, who runs the Horry County Fairgrounds, the last stop on the North End Run. â€œIf anything, it makes it more interesting to me. Itâ€™s a scenic highway so there are no signs or business frontage. Itâ€™s an amazing thing to me to see some of the trees have burned but the tops are still living. Some areas are black but then 50 feet away itâ€™s green.â€
The community is preparing for the rallies and summer traffic. Myrtle Beach and Horry County Police have announced they will be holding traffic checkpoints throughout the month. Dates and locations have not been announced. As in years past, authorities say they will authorize overtime and have extra officers on loan from other agencies.
A notice on the website for the Freestlye Music Park says the park, formerly Hard Rock Park, will reopen May 23, just in time for the Memorial Day rally.
Hakim Harrell, a Philadelphia-based rally promoter, is reportedly opening a helmet store, Hott Helmets, in Myrtle Beach this Friday. He has also moved the East Coast Customs Motorcycle Show from the Myrtle Beach Convention Center to Club 2001 Entertainment Complex, which is in Horry County. Harrell sought the only special event permit from the county under its new event permit process.