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Hurricane Doesn’t Stop Fla. Wedding

September 24, 1998

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) _ Since Hurricane Bonnie blew off their wedding plans, Jack Whittinghill and Vickie Spalding decided they’d get hitched before Georges did the same.

They were married Thursday morning on narrow Higgs Beach, facing a sea sparkling under bright sun. Behind them, palm trees waved in a steady breeze _ a harbinger of Georges, due within hours.

``May they be as gentle with each other as the normal lapping of the waves on Key West shores,″ the Rev. Debra Benedict said as the couple exchanged vows and rings.

The interfaith minister performed the ceremony as three beachcombers inattentively watched from afar.

The couple intended to marry about a month ago near the Cape Fear River in Wilmington, N.C., but Bonnie stopped the wedding before the pair even left Jeffersonville, Ind.

So they rescheduled their beach nuptials to Key West, arriving hours before a mandatory evacuation order forced by Hurricane Georges.

``I said, ’That’s it, we’re getting married in a hurricane,‴ said Whittinghill, a 59-year-old retired police chief.

Ms. Spalding, a 41-year-old hairdresser, carried a bouquet of seaweed and red flowers pinched from hotel landscaping, and fashioned a boutonniere which she fastened to Jack’s knit pullover with a hair clip.

The bride wore a blue floral sundress and chunky sandals; the groom was in jeans. They had planned something slightly dressier.

``We got down here and everything was closed,″ Ms. Spalding said.

They planned to spend the early part of their honeymoon relaxing in an abnormally quiet Key West before hunkering down in their hotel room.

``We’ll get us a lawn chair, pair of sunglassses, and watch the hurricane come in,″ Whittinghill said.

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