Tropical Storm Isaias impacts felt on Tybee, Hilton Head beaches

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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) – The sun came back out on Tybee and Hilton Head islands Monday evening, but that wasn’t the scene all day long.

Officials on Tybee Island put their emergency plan in place several days ago, announcing waters would be closed to swimmers on Sunday and Monday due to possible impacts from Tropical Storm Isaias.

That didn’t stop residents and visitors from heading out, but by mid-morning Monday, it was a less than perfect beach day. Winds whipped the water as lifeguards flew double red flags.

Meanwhile, Tybee City Manager Shawn Gillen and his team were monitoring the storm minute-by-minute.

“The tide cycle is already past so as the surge comes it, it’s not going to be too bad,” Gillen said.

“The winds will stay up probably through the night as this thing passes through but I think we’re going to be okay,” he added.

Over on Hilton Head Island, beachgoers were seeing similar conditions.

Isaias brought rain and wind in and out of the area throughout the morning. At one point, lifeguards had to abandon their tower that came crashing down but never left their post.

Officials still advise no one gets in the water as an elevated risk for rip currents remains.

Hilton Head Beach Operations Manager Mike Wagner said the biggest concern was having a storm threat during tourist season.

“It’s tough because there wasn’t an evacuation, which is understandable, it’s still high tourist season here,” Wagner said. “We are used to the hurricanes and tropical storms coming when there’s been an evacuation, and it’s September, October, and there are fewer people here.”

Dave Rosenberg, from Chicago, said conditions seemed “a lot calmer than people were making it out to be.”

“It’s actually quite nice today,” he added.

Bryan and Mary Chapman, in town from Indianapolis, Indiana, for their anniversary, said Isaias couldn’t stop them from celebrating.

“Worse things than this can happen in life. This too shall pass,” said Mr. Chapman. We are just enjoying it, staying flexible.”

While mother nature offered fascination, Tybee’s city manager said Isaias gave them time to practice its emergency plan and meet the challenge of a storm even in the days of COVID-19.

“We had to make some real significant changes to how we evacuate, who’s going to stay where, that sort of thing,” Gillen said, reminding others to take a look at their own plans.

“Make sure your personal plan is in place, have your evacuation point,” he said, “if you have a generator get it out and test it.”

Gillen said no major issues were reported on Tybee, and overall, he feels good about the city’s response.

“We’re really confident we could handle a bigger event if it were to come along,” he said.

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