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Hurricane an Adventure for Tourists

September 15, 1999

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) _ Many tourists here initially accepted Floyd philosophically _ viewing the intimidating tempest as a sort of bonus to their vacation.

``I find it rather exciting,″ said Lyle Warzeka, a retiree from Cincinnati, Ohio. ``Something to tell all the folks back home,″ Chris Bolte, from Mt. Vernon, Ind., said as workmen angled metal bars against glass doors facing the seafront.

Throughout Monday, guests streamed to the Cable Beach Marriott, many of them evacuees from nearby apartments and timeshares, including Warzeka, who feared storm surges would cause flooding.

Those who came early got the $89 ``hurricane special″ _ a deal on rooms that usually cost $139. But the hotel did not turn away others, who ended up sleeping on couches, chairs and the carpet around the ballroom.

Around 4 a.m., there was a sharp, sleep-ending crack. Bolte said it sounded like tin, perhaps an awning.

There was no power.

Winds howled and the word spread that Floyd would pass much closer than expected to Nassau, the Bahama’s capital. The city’s 165,000 people are half the country’s population.

Still, the atmosphere in the ballroom remained upbeat.

Warzeka’s wife combed her hair on the chair she’d spent the night in after their timeshare was evacuated. One young boy propped against a pillar with a baseball hat over his eyes. Others gathered for the first available cup of coffee.

``I’m not scared,″ said 8-year-old Shaneeshiann Burrows, who’d come to the hotel with her mother when their seaside apartment building was evacuated.

Yet, at the front desk, Frenchman Paul Rodamol impatiently asked when he could fly home. ``How much longer?″ he despaired.

Forecasters had said the worst winds, gusts up to 100 mph, would be over by 9 a.m. But at noon Tuesday, howling winds continued as radio stations reported roads blocked by smashed trees, damaged roofs and flooded roads.

A group of tourists lounged on the floor near a closed bar, playing bingo. Others read. A couple of British teen-agers played cards, between gasping, ``Look at that!″ as waves smashed over a wall onto the hotel lawn.

By afternoon, the winds died down enough to make it possible to get outside, where flooded roads were littered with debris.

Inside the hotel, nerves began to fray.

Tourists complained of heat and of trudging up 11 flights. Children started whining. Irate guests lined up at the desk demanding candles, fresh towels, and cigarettes.

They asked when the phones and power would be working, and they wondered when they could leave.

At the neighboring Radisson, the mood was little better. Hotel managers ordered guests out of their rooms early Tuesday. ``Guests are not allowed in their rooms for their own safety,″ repeated a tired receptionist. Nearly 600 people had slept in the downstairs ballroom.

Betty Johns of McDonough, Ga., wearily stretched across two dining chairs, worried what Floyd might do to a daughter in North Carolina.

In the casino, several dozen would-be patrons sat, buckets of quarters ready. A big cheer went up when the slot machines lit up. Within an hour, however, they were dark again.

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