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Floyd Juggles Sporting Calendar

September 14, 1999

MIAMI (AP) _ From South Florida to the Grand Strand, Hurricane Floyd’s march up the Atlantic coast sent sports teams scrambling Tuesday to adjust their schedules and get out of the massive storm’s path.

No major games were affected, but the potential for high wind and heavy rain led NASCAR to close its headquarters and forced the Miami Dolphins to bus the final 100 miles back from its season-opening victory at Denver.

``It just kind of puts a little bit of fear in you, to say this is serious and you can’t relax,″ NASCAR spokesman Tim Sullivan said from Charlotte, N.C., where several employees relocated for the week.

The Florida Panthers’ opening NHL exhibition game Tuesday night was postponed. Baseball’s Class-A Carolina League, rather than play the deciding game of its championship series, declared Wilmington and Myrtle Beach co-champions.

``Sports pales to other issues that are at hand, even a championship,″ Myrtle Beach general manager Steve Malliet said.

The Double-A Southern League, with Orlando and West Tennessee battling for the title, moved Wednesday’s Game 3 from Orlando to Jackson, Tenn. Games 4 and 5, if necessary, will be played Friday and Saturday in Orlando.

Floyd didn’t affect racing at Miami’s Calder Race Course, which doesn’t run on Tuesdays, but several owners and trainers moved their horses to safer ground. In Orlando, the NBA postponed Wednesday’s grand-opening celebration of its first theme restaurant.

In the oddest twist, Floyd’s approach prompted a mistrial in the lawsuit against Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn by a woman who said he sexually assaulted her at his home.

Floyd’s top sustained wind Tuesday reached 140 mph _ down slightly from Monday but still a Category 4 storm, the second-most powerful designation for a hurricane.

Tropical storm-force winds, at least 39 mph, began hitting southeastern Florida by early afternoon. At 5 p.m. EDT, Floyd was about 190 miles east of Palm Beach and moving northwest.

The Dolphins, fresh off a 38-21 triumph Monday night that ended Denver’s 24-game home winning streak, were forced to land at Fort Myers on Florida’s west coast and bus some 2 1/2 hours across the state.

Coach Jimmy Johnson canceled his weekly day-after-game press briefing, and team officials postponed ceremonies opening a new NFL youth center in Fort Lauderdale.

Neither the Dolphins nor the Jacksonville Jaguars were forced to cancel practice, since Tuesday is a day off for most NFL teams.

The Jaguars had considered moving practices to Georgia this week, but backed off that idea Tuesday. However, Wednesday’s scheduled workouts remained iffy.

The Florida Marlins, forced to play back-to-back doubleheaders last year when Hurricane Georges passed near, watched developments this time from San Francisco.

``It’s hard to concentrate when you’re dealing with stuff like that,″ said catcher Mike Redmond, whose girlfriend lives in Melbourne, Fla. ``When you’re a thousand miles away, it makes you nervous.″

Farther north, colleges in Georgia and South Carolina called off a handful of games. Most involved volleyball and soccer, but it also included Saturday’s football game featuring The Citadel at Western Carolina.

Citadel athletic director Walt Nadzak said memories of Hurricane Hugo, which left some $7 billion in damage 10 years ago, led him to pull the plug early.

``I know Western doesn’t understand,″ Nadzak said. ``But our kids have families, our coaches have wives and children. We want them to be with them.″

Other teams, meanwhile, adjusted their schedules to accommodate the storm. Eighth-ranked Miami, preparing for Saturday’s game against No. 3 Penn State, and Central Florida both moved up practice to avoid the fiercest weather.

``It’s tricky,″ said Miami quarterback Kenny Kelly, who hit the practice field at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. ``You never know what tomorrow’s schedule is going to be. We’ll play and see what happens tomorrow.″

In Daytona Beach, NASCAR’s headquarters was closed down as employees joined some 2 million people evacuated from coastal areas. Personnel packed the organization’s most sensitive files and placed them on a plane out of state.

It was the second time in as many years that NASCAR had to abandon its offices in an emergency. Fourteen months ago, wildfires forced postponement of the Pepsi 400 race.

``We were more nervous about that,″ Sullivan said. ``It was something you could see. You could smell it. The hurricane sits off the coast, and you don’t notice it until it hits.″

In Columbia, S.C., Shinn’s trial was declared a mistrial after opening statements were delayed several hours because of the impending storm.

Circuit Judge Costa M. Pleicones said he was concerned the storm could cause a delay in the trial that would allow jurors to see unwanted publicity about the case.

Leslie Price sued Shinn, saying he lured her to his home in September 1997 and forced her to perform oral sex. Shinn contends the sex was consensual.

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