Restaurants in Macon are stocking up, businesses are seeing customers who evacuated from Florida and hospitals are preparing for extra patients as Hurricane Irma hurls toward Florida and tracks toward Georgia.
Businesses are not only preparing to serve the thousands of evacuees staying in Middle Georgia, but also local residents who may be facing the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
“We are seeing an increase in business, and we are actually prepared,” said David Clark, owner/operator of Chick-fil-A restaurants on Tom Hill Sr. Boulevard and Bass Road. “We got an extra truck that we got delivered (Friday afternoon). We just unloaded one at (the Bass Road store) and I’m about to head to the (Tom Hill) store and unload it.”
Most of the extra customers so far appear to be from Florida, “but they will probably come from the coast of Georgia later,” he said. “We are trying to get ready for the mandatory evacuation from the Georgia coast.”
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Kory Lundberg, director of media relations for Walmart said stores are doing what they can to keep stores stocked with items that are in high demand.
“We are staying closely connected with our operations in the field, especially there in Macon, helping ensure we are stocking the appropriate items and keeping track of shipments to deliver for our customers,” Lundberg said.
“What we’re seeing is people are buying items such as, certainly, bottled water, ready-to-eat food, flashlights, batteries, even things like can openers and fuel containers. So we are constantly in touch with our management team to make sure our shelves are stocked.”
The company is closely checking its stores “from the tip of Florida to Virginia,” he said. “We understand water is in need across the region. We have mobilized a large number of truckloads of water starting last Tuesday, and we’ll go right on through the storm and the recovery.”
Walmart has closed stores in the evacuation areas of Florida, and it would do the same in Georgia if that should be necessary.
Some of Macon’s evacuees are not just shopping along the interstates.
Cathy Brantley, manager of the Ingleside Village Antique Center on Ingleside Avenue, said she had quite a number of Florida evacuees in the store Thursday.
“Some had apparently booked ahead of time, and one couple was staying at the 1842 Inn (in Macon),” Brantley said. “I had a another big crowd that was staying with family” in the area. “They were telling me they had been on this horrendous journey up (Interstate) 75, but what I was happy to hear was they said that people were being cool. ... No one was trying to jump ahead of others.”
While Friday’s prediction called for the brunt of the storm to hit Macon on Monday and several schools and some businesses are closing, Brantley said most of the stores in Ingleside Village are closed on Mondays anyway.
Late Friday afternoon, the Georgia Labor Department said in a release that assistance would be available from the federal government for businesses and employees.
“Often after a natural disaster, companies are closed for days or weeks,” the release said. “When that happens, employees can lose income for extended periods.”
Help can be made available through Disaster Unemployment Assistance, a program administered by the Georgia Department of Labor, Commissioner Mark Butler said.
“Eligible workers can get as much as $330 a week for up to 26 weeks if they are unable to return to work due to damage from Hurricane Irma,” the release said.
The labor department is ready to help employers and employees in the wake of landfall from Irma. The department has established toll free numbers for employers, 855-436-7365, and for employees, 877-709-8185, seeking help. They can also go to dol.georgia.gov.
“We want to make a difference for any Georgia company or worker disrupted by the storm,” Butler said.
Midstate hospitals ready to accept evacuated patients
“We are not only prepared to receive patients at Navicent Health, but will work with health care providers throughout central Georgia to place patients evacuating areas affected by Hurricane Irma,” Steve Ramsey, emergency management coordinator for Navicent Health, said in a news release.
Navicent Health is the regional coordinating hospital for Region F, which includes Henry, Spalding, Butts, Pike, Lamar, Monroe, Upson, Bibb, Jones, Crawford, Peach and Houston counties.
Friday afternoon the hospital received 15 neonatal patients from the Georgia coasts, the release said.
“We will continue to monitor this situation as it progresses to ensure patients in need of care are transported in the appropriate manner to the appropriate location,” Ramsey said.
Coliseum Medical Centers is expecting to receive patients from Memorial Health in Savannah as they work to place some of their most critical patients before Hurricane Irma arrives on the coast, according to a news release.
“We are in constant contact throughout the day with local and state emergency management, as well as our sister hospitals along the coast to ensure that we are helping in every way possible,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tim Grant said.
Coliseum Medical Centers and Coliseum Northside Hospital “have activated their emergency preparedness plans to ensure we are ready to support hospitals or families in need of care.”
Houston Medical Center and Perry Hospital weren’t sure as of Friday how many patients would be coming from the Georgia coasts, as not all hospitals had made final determinations on evacuations.
But said in a statement that it “will be accepting patients depending on availability of beds and staffing. ... We will work with our regional counterparts to determine the best next steps if and when it becomes necessary.”