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Floyd Evacuees Fight Fear, Boredom

September 15, 1999

DOUGLAS, Ga. (AP) _ Charity Boree didn’t get much sleep after helping her mother evacuate nursing home residents from St. Simons Island to a shelter in Douglas, 90 miles away from the dangers of Hurricane Floyd.

The 15-year-old helped get the 106 patients settled, then stayed up until 4 a.m. Wednesday directing other evacuees to the shelter.

``It was a hard night,″ she said later Wednesday as she waited out the storm with her mother, nurse Virginia Boree, at Douglas’ First Baptist Church. Still, she was relieved to know that Floyd had turned away from Georgia and would likely spare her home in Brunswick.

``I was really scared,″ she said. ``I thought I’d come back to Brunswick and it wouldn’t be there, and my house wouldn’t be there.″

She was one of about 11,000 evacuees from three states who crowded into 50 shelters across Georgia on Wednesday, fighting fear and boredom as they waited for the hurricane to pass. The Red Cross scrambled to open additional shelters as more evacuees poured into the state.

Thousands of others took refuge at hotels and motels, but by Wednesday there were virtually no rooms to be found anywhere in Georgia, which has more than 100,000 hotel rooms.

Andy Hurwich of AAA Auto Club South in Atlanta was scrambling to find space for clients fleeing from neighboring states. He wasn’t having much luck.

``I haven’t seen anything like it,″ he said. ``It’s worse than the Super Bowl.″

The Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs heard complaints about gas stations doubling their prices and motels charging $145 for a $65 room, said Barry Reid, director of the agency.

Reid said his office was investigating and would issue cease-and-desist orders to any businesses caught violating the state’s anti-gouging law, enacted after floods in 1994.

``This is not the time to be profiteering and taking advantage of people whose lives have already been upset,″ he said.

Laura Lattany of Brunswick had planned to find a motel for herself and seven relatives, including her four grandchildren, when they left home Tuesday. But after six hours of fruitless searching, they settled for a Red Cross shelter at a school in Nicholls, 15 miles east of Douglas.

``We came expecting motels, showers. We found this shelter with a girls’ locker room, three showers and no shower curtains,″ she said Wednesday as she used a crayon and her granddaughter’s coloring book to pass the time.

Other people played cards, watched TV or read newspapers in the school’s gym.

Lidiya Olsen of Jacksonville Beach, Fla., slept in her car outside the Nicholls shelter with her dog, which wasn’t welcome inside for health reasons.

A native of Russia, she said leaving her home was hard. ``For the first time in my life, I had no house to live in. Life is hard in Russia, but I always had a place to stay,″ she said.

At an Augusta shelter, Quincy Frazier of Early Branch, S.C., played games with his children, prayed and read his Bible. He said he was eager to get home to see whether his property had been damaged.

``I keep listening at the weather forecast,″ he said. ``Thank the Lord (the storm) is losing a little bit of strength.″

The community center where Frazier and his family were staying was at capacity with 217 evacuees, as were at least eight others in Augusta. But emergency officials opened the Augusta civic center Wednesday afternoon, making room for another 2,000.

``We’re soliciting donations of food to feed them,″ said Rob Kiser, program manager for the Augusta Parks Department. ``We just had pizza delivered for 250 people.″

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