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Greenville a popular pit stop for Dennis evacuees

After fleeing their homes and businesses to avoid the possible wrath of Hurricane Dennis, thousands of residents of the Gulf Coast took to the highways to head back home on Monday.

Greenville proved to be a popular place to make a pit stop for many of those travelers.

Derrick Powell, of Derrick’s Famous Hot Dogs, left his normal W. Commerce St. location on the Hilltop, to set up shop on the by-pass.

As of mid-afternoon on Monday, the vendor had no complaints.

&uot;I’ve probably sold 150 hot dogs and 50 polish sausages today, more than double what I’d normally do – business has been really good over here,&uot; Powell said over the roar of his generator.

Most of his customers were Floridians, headed back to Pensacola and Panama City. With I-65 packed, the businessman said he planned &uot;to stay all night&uot; if necessary.

&uot;I’m stocked up. I’ve got enough hot dogs for two weeks,&uot; Powell said.

Locals were also enjoying Powell’s trademark dogs.

Greenville Police officer Josh Williams took a break from his long workday to grab a bite at Derrick’s.

&uot;We are really happy things didn’t get any worse here than they did. We feel bad other places got hit, but we are surely relieved it didn’t happen here again so soon after Ivan,&uot; Williams said.

Allan Jackson of Greenville Towing had had a very busy day. Between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., the tow truck operator had made 18 runs – &uot;mostly folks running out of gas and breakdowns.&uot;

The great thing, Jackson said, was the fact he wasn’t called to any wrecks Monday.

&uot;With all the heavy traffic on the road right now, that’s the main thing,&uot; Jackson said.

Bates Texaco on Fort Dale was swamped with vehicles, as was Bates House of Turkey next door, as frazzled travelers sought gas, food and rest rooms.

Pensacolan Benny Bentley and his wife, Celestine, stopped to fill up their car’s tank at the station. The couple had traveled to Atlanta to escape the storm and found their return home very slow going.

&uot;The traffic is very bad. We left Atlanta at 10 a.m. Central Time, and it’s now 4 p.m.,&uot; a weary Bentley said.

The couple received storm damage to their home during Ivan last year. They had no idea what awaited them back in Pensacola this time around.

&uot;All we know is, we have no power, and it could take three weeks to get it back,&uot; Bentley said.

Darryl Roberts, a Gulf Shores resident, was waiting for a turkey meal as he took a break from the road.

&uot;I went to Birmingham to stay with some friends. When Governor Riley said we had to evacuate, I was ready to go. I suffered total destruction to my businesses and home last year with Ivan, and I wasn’t taking any chances,&uot; he explained.

Roberts, who spent two-and-a-half hours on the Interstate between Birmingham and Montgomery, traveled another two hours to Greenville.

&uot;It was definitely bumper to bumper out there,&uot; he said.

In spite of road weariness, Roberts admitted his spirits were high, knowing his home and businesses were in good shape this time around.

&uot;I’m tickled to death about that,&uot; he said with a grin.

The staff at Bates House of Turkey had been in full swing since the power was finally restored to the restaurant at 10:30 a.m. Monday.

&uot;It was a madhouse initially. I got here, got opened by myself and rounded up these workers…we had throngs of people in here as soon as we opened the doors. I felt sorry for them; they were so happy to eat anything we had to offer,&uot; Becky Bates Sloane, restaurant manager, said.

Sloane said the service station next door had people showing up at 5 a.m., long before the power was back on.

&uot;They said folks were desperate for anything – a Coke or a chance to use the bathroom,&uot; she said.