Florida family takes refuge in Georgia - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Florida family takes refuge in Georgia

August 13, 2004

Valdosta-- Georgia is under a state of emergency tonight, primarily to protect hurricane evacuees from price gouging on motel rooms and gasoline. Tens of thousands of Floridians are in Georgia tonight seeking shelter.

Lowndes County has its share of visitors. The roads are a little busier and just about every major hotel chain either had no vacancies or just a few rooms left. They all expect to be full by Friday night.

There's no school or work today for the Wade family, who left their home near Tampa and traveled through the night to find a safe place to stay.

They left their home in the Tampa Bay area about 10:30 and headed north to dodge the wrath of Hurricane Charley. "I think we made the calm before the storm, there were a lot of people planning on leaving this morning," said Melissa Wade.

From the looks of Interstate 75, many people are following the Wade family's lead. "The traffic on I-75 is getting heavy and heavier," said Mayor John Fretti. And hotels are getting busier. "Our hotels are filling up very quickly," said Fretti.

But if all the hotels fill up, where do evacuees go from there? The Red Cross has three churches on standby to open as shelters. "We figure we can hold about 1000 people, maybe a little more if we need to," said Penelope White, Red Cross Director.

As for the Wade family, they're finding ways to pass the time, "We're thinking about going to the mall," said Melissa.

And hoping the home they left behind can weather the storm. "There's nothing we can do about it, but we're definitely worried about it," said Melissa.

The Lowndes County sheriff and Valdosta police departments have increased patrols on city streets and Interstate 75 because of all the traffic.

posted at 3:50PM by dave.miller@walb.com