Evacuees say goodbye to Georgia - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Evacuees say goodbye to Georgia

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September 6, 2004

Cook County- Some Floridians might be waiting out Frances in South Georgia, but others are making their trek back home.

Interstate 75 began to get crowded in Tift County just before noon Monday. Dozens of Floridians were sharing the road with power crews headed south.

Traffic was much heavier than it was Sunday. State troopers say there have just two minor wrecks, but no injuries. A tree limb did fall across the right side northbound lane, but it was quickly cleared.

Cars and trucks rolled in at a steady pace at this Cook County rest stop.

"The storm's coming your way so we don't want to stay here for it. We left Palm Coast to avoid it, so we want to go down before it comes your way," says Tammie Sharpe.

In addition to trying to dodge what's left of Frances, the evacuees say they want to get back to assess damage to their homes.

"No power, the streets are flooded. I just talked to my mom on the phone they said why are we coming down because it's really bad down there. So we're going to go down to a dark house," adds Sharpe.

"My mother lost her roof, her fence, no power, no water. That water's been cut off. Basically we're just going back to see what we can do," says Angelo Jimenez of West Palm Beach, Florida.

Sunshine Uribe is hoping damage caused by Charley didn't make matters worse when the storm blew through Orlando.

"We had part of our roof the shingles came off, and our pool got crushed. We're kind of worried because our roof hasn't gotten fixed yet from that," she says.

Angelo Jimenez stocked up on what he now considers gold before heading back to West Palm Beach.

"I got a car trunk full of batteries. I got food. I got water. I got a whole bunch of stuff," he says. But what he doesn't have is a enough money to stay another day.

"We really can't afford it. I wish we could. I'd stay here another week."

A week that would hopefully put him out of the path of Frances's shadow, Hurricane Ivan.

Many of the evacuees say, other than the worrying, their stay in Georgia has been so enjoyable they have plans to return soon for a vacation.

Even so, Georgia Emergency Management Agency officials say Florida evacuees should not yet go back home. That's because Florida officials have not said it's OK to do so.

Georgia officials are asking evacuees to be patient and wait for the green light to go home. Evacuees also have called GEMA asking if it is OK to return home.

GEMA spokesman Buzz Weiss said today state officials are seeing Interstate 95 southbound nearly full with traffic headed back to Florida. An estimated 350,000 to a half-million people left their homes in Florida for shelter in Georgia.

Weiss says that even emergency recovery teams and the American Red Cross have not been given permission to enter Florida yet.

Georgia Emergency Management Agency says severe weather related to tropical storm Frances has caused power outages in southern Georgia. Up to 20,000 people in southern Georgia are without power today.

The A.P. contributed to this report.

Posted at 5:30 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com