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Middle Georgia hotels sell out as Hurricane Irma threatens Florida

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You can’t predict when disaster will strike, so make sure you have a plan. Here are nine things you can do to prepare for a future evacuation.
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You can’t predict when disaster will strike, so make sure you have a plan. Here are nine things you can do to prepare for a future evacuation.

Atlanta businessman Charles Brown planned to stay overnight in Macon next week on a business trip.

“I tried over 75 hotels and not one room was available through Wednesday next week,” Brown said in a message to The Telegraph.

As general manager of UniFirst Corp., he had planned to visit his company’s Macon office.

From Perry to Locust Grove, more than 100 hotels have no rooms available through at least Tuesday, according to Expedia.com.

Hurricane Irma evacuees from Florida are flooding into Middle Georgia to escape what is referred to a “potentially catastrophic” hurricane. It is one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.

A quick check of www.expedia.com shows every hotel from Perry to Forsyth as sold out. A few hotels between Forsyth and Atlanta still showed some availability Wednesday, but they were filling fast.

A listing for Fairfield Inn & Suites in Stockbridge said: “In high demand. We have 1 left at $199 avg/night.”

Twenty-two people booked rooms at the FairBridge Inn & Suites in McDonough during the 48 hours before 11 a.m. Wednesday. It was sold out.

Georgia Tourism is setting up a statewide map for sharing hotel availability by day. Check for updates at irma.georgia.org.

Nearly all the calls to the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce were coming from Florida residents, “indicating they were trying to get away from the hurricane,” said O’Claudia Johnson with the chamber. She started getting calls Friday about where to find hotel rooms.

Cathy Garofalo, general manager at Homewood Suites in north Bibb County, said the hotel has been getting calls about rooms since the weekend. The hotel is booked as far as having four or five days in a row available. Some people may cancel if the hurricane doesn’t come their way, so some rooms could open up later, she said.

“It is just a terrible thing for these people,” Garofalo said. “Last time this happened ... some people were just sitting in the lobby waiting for some place to go. ... I’m sure this is just the beginning.”

Some people who had reservations for Wednesday night called earlier in the day saying they were stuck in traffic trying to get gas, and they didn’t want their reservations canceled.

The 1842 Inn on College Street in Macon is also booked solid from Thursday through Tuesday, said Lacresia Sacre.

“The phones started ringing at 11 (Tuesday) and have not stopped,” she said. “The majority are from Florida.”

The inn is preparing in case bad weather hits Macon by collecting extra water and extra food, she said.

Hotel rooms are not the only things full in Middle Georgia

Sherry Dalton with the KOA campground in Forsyth said they had about 112 open RV sites, nine cabins and two lodges.

“We are totally full from now through the 13th,” Dalton said. “We have a few tent sites available. ... Most of them are evacuees from Florida and the coast of Georgia.

“There is nothing within 100 miles of here,” she said, including Indian Springs State Park and High Falls State Park. “Everyone of those are booked.”

Horses and their owners from Florida should be able to find space at the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter, which is serving as an equine evacuation site for people fleeing Hurricane Irma. It has 350 available stalls that will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis, according to a release. No reservations will be accepted.

The fairgrounds will offer on-site dry camping only for those housing their horses at the facility during their stay. Owners would need to provide the necessary feed, hay and tack to care for their horses. For more information, call Philip Gentry at 478-988-7522 or email at pgentry@gnfa.com.

The Atlanta Motor Speedway will open its camping facilities on Thursday free of charge to evacuees seeking temporary refuge from the approaching hurricane, according to its website. The speedway, equipped to handle thousands of campers during its annual NASCAR weekend, will open both RV and tent campgrounds to any interested evacuees.

Evacuees thinking about stretching their hotel search east or west of Macon may still have trouble.

By Wednesday afternoon, nearly all hotels from Dublin to Columbus were showing they were full, according to the Expedia website. At 5 p.m. 441 people were on Expedia’s site looking for rooms in the Macon area, a pop-up message said.

By Wednesday afternoon, Brown stopped looking for a room.

“I will just make the daily drive (from Atlanta) to allow another room to be taken by someone that needs it more than me,” he said.

The Category 5 storm is expected to bring strong storm surges. Part of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos is under a hurricane warning.

Linda S. Morris: 478-744-4223, @MidGaBiz

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