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Greenville’s hotels at full occupancy as evacuees escape hurricane’s path

A storm of historic proportions is barreling toward the eastern seaboard this weekend with the potential to displace millions of Floridians.

Several of those evacuees have sought and found refuge from Hurricane Irma in Greenville, leaving the Camellia City’s hotels at full occupancy.

Francine Wasden, executive director of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce, said that all six of the city’s chamber-affiliated hotels and their collective 450 rooms are full.

“We actually had numerous calls Friday morning asking about hotels that might be available here,” Wasden said. “We did some research and, sure enough, all of the hotel rooms have already been taken.”

Wasden said that Greenville’s placement along I-65 makes the city an attractive stop for evacuees.

“I think we’re in a great location—just far enough from the coast, but still not too far to get back home for these people who have been traveling long distances,” she added. “I think we’re a good, easy-on, easy-off location and not getting into the huge Montgomery-like areas.”

Neighboring cities such as Montgomery aren’t faring much better in terms of lodging availability.  Montgomery, Prattville and Monroeville’s hotels are also at full occupancy.

The sudden influx of evacuees will almost certainly have a pronounced effect on Greenville’s economy, Wasden said.  And Hurricane Irma—whose diameter has been reported as greater than 400 miles—will impact not only evacuees or family members of evacuees, but also anyone looking to do something as simple as travel from one place to another or grab a quick lunch this weekend.

“It absolutely will [impact our economy],” Wasden said.  “There will be lines for gas and lines for fast food, and that’s just the way it is.

“I think all of our businesses can handle that quite well, and I know that they’ll be polite and friendly and help these people in any way possible. We just want to remind everybody to be patient, because these people are displaced.  We want to be cordial to them and have compassion because we don’t know how long they could be out of their homes.  I’m sure they’re anxious, as well.”

Those new to the Camellia City can find more information on dining, entertainment, events and more at the chamber’s new site, greenvillealchamber.com.

Butler County sheriff Kenny Harden is serving as the county’s interim Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director until the position is officially filled, and he said there remain places to seek refuge for evacuees around the state.

“I spoke with the state EMA director this morning and confirmed that as of Friday there are officially shelters available in the state, which can be found online at ema.alabama.gov,” Harden said.

He added that anyone interested in shelter information and updates concerning shelter or campground locations can dial 211.

“As we continue to monitor the weather conditions, if anything develops here locally, we will update citizens.”