Hurricanes bring in and take away money - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Hurricanes bring in and take away money

September 22, 2004

Valdosta - It's a site we haven't seen in Lowndes County for more than a month now, hotels with empty parking lots. "The September and August month were some of the highest, if not the highest in the history of Valdosta hotels," said Marty Brown, Conference Center Director.

Evacuees seeking shelter from Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Ivan found a temporary home in Lowndes County. "We have about 4300 rooms," said Brown. All of those were filled, during what is usually a slow time for hotels. "Typically in September, we'd be looking at about a 75 percent occupancy rate," said Brown.

They dined at our restaurants, shopped in our stores, and filled their gas tanks at our fuel stations, pumping a huge chunk of change into the local economy. But while tourism officials are counting the money made, others are adding up the monetary losses. "Hurricane Frances did more than 600,000 dollars in damage in Lowndes County alone," said Paige Dukes.

That's including overtime pay for clean up crews and replacement costs for items damaged in the storms. The county has applied for federal aid to help with the costs. "A FEMA representative was here last Friday and all the city and county representatives could come forward and present all of the overtime pay and other documents for reimbursement," said Dukes.

Luckily, only one of the hurricanes left us with storm damage, but evacuees came with all three storms. Now as the totals add up, county officials are hoping the money those evacuees spent here will outweigh what was lost.

posted at 5:40 P.M. by ashley.harper@walb.com