The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on September 15, 1999 · Page 13
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September 15, 1999

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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 13

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West Palm Beach, Florida
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Wednesday, September 15, 1999
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12A THE PALM BEACH POST WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 1999 s c WM FLOYD EVACUATION CHOICES Many headed north or west; some went to local hotels 'Everyone's hovering around the television at the bar and watching the storm updates. ' tom SMrm General manager, Hyatt Regency Tampa By Stephanie Desmon Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Tuesday morning, the roads through Palm Beach County were almost deserted, a sort of anti-rush hour. People who were going to leave did off to standing-room-only Red Cross shelters, to hotel rooms in Tampa or Orlando, to friends or relatives a few miles inland. The rest put the finishing touches on plywood improvements to their homes and businesses. Traffic is very, very light," said Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Pembrook Burrows. It was too late to head north, where the brunt of the storm was expected anyway. Bumper-to-bumper traffic snarled northbound Interstate 95 through northern Florida, westbound Interstate 10 toward Tallahassee was congested and State Road 60 west of Vero Beach was jammed as people tried to get a little more distance between themselves and the expected fury of Hurricane Floyd. Palm Beach County sheriffs spokesman Paul Miller said the sheriffs office planned to have 500 deputies on the road Tuesday night Traffic was moving smoothly through St. Lucie, Martin and Okeechobee counties on Tuesday, though it was heavier than normal in some spots. But officials expected people off the roads by the time the storm came through, said Okeechobee County sheriffs Capt. Gary Hargraves. The car was the only option. Train Weber, who was making final preparations to leave herself. Her husband, Tim, said they would be out by noon to spend the night with relatives in Boca Raton. A wind gauge whirling above his mobile home registered a gust of 36 mph at 8 a.m., he said. "Hopefully, when we come back Wednesday, this will be just as it is now," he said. "If not, we have three different insurance policies for wind, flood and property damage." West Palm Beach also resembled a ghost town. The stores that opened were, for the most part, closed by noon. Most fast-food restaurants were closed; it was even hard to find a gas station open in the afternoon. People who were out on Clematis Street downtown were putting up shutters and plywood. Along 1-75 north of Central Florida, evacuees flooded tourist offices with questions: Where to stable a horse? Find a hotel that takes pets? Find enough rooms for 100 people? By 10 a.m. Tuesday, the staff at the Gainesville Holiday Inn was advising them to look for hotel rooms in Atlanta. By 11:30 a.m., the word at the Georgia welcome center, just north of the Florida border on 1-75, was that there were no rooms south of Calhoun, 80 miles north of Atlanta and 320 miles from the border. Four hours later, the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau was suggesting Chattanooga, Tenn. A hotel in Birmingham, Ala., was offering rooms, convention bureau spokeswoman Brandy O'Quinn said. Jesus Flores of Belle Glade Cook a break at the welcome center,' after driving through Monday night After Palm Beach County officials ordered mobile home residents to evacuate Monday evening, "I closed my trailer, got my clothes and my family, and hit the road," he said, In a caravan of four cars and 20 relatives, he was heading for his brother's home in Macon, Ga. the, same place he waited out Hurricane Andrew seven years ago. Meanwhile, many east-coasters could be found at the Hyatt Regency Tampa, which General Manager Tom Smith boasts has never had water in the lobby. : "I've got all your residents over here," he said. '. "Everyone's hovering around the television at the bar and watching the storm updates," Smith said. "It's kind of a festive atmosphere. They're just a little worried about their homes, whether they'll be gone when they get back." Closer to home, some residents who evacuated from barrier islands didn't travel that far. The Doubletree Hotel In Palm Beach Gardens put its overflow guests in the ballroom. The Omni Hotel in West Palm Beach booked up early Tuesday. They're coming from all over," said the Omni's Lori Keil. "I just saw a whole group of people come in with their paintings to protect them. "I don't have anything I'd .save." B Staff writers Sanjay Bhatt, ' Bill Douthat and Michael Van Sickler contributed to this story. service was suspended Monday; Palm Beach International Airport was closed at noon Tuesday (doors locked, sandbags out) and jets were flown out of the region. The airport should reopen today; travelers should call their carriers for information. "I'm not going north," said Mike Deoreo, as he boarded up his Flamingo Park home Tuesday around lunchtime. "If anything, I'd go south." At daybreak Tuesday, Palm Beach was nearly deserted except for police patrols, a few sightseers and a lone jogger hoofing along Seaspray Avenue. Luxury cars that normally park at the curbs were nowhere to be found and mansions and condos were masked with color-coordinated shutters and panels of plywood. "Most of the people have left," Si-grid Kumpe said as she loaded belongings into a car on Seaspray a block from the ocean. Amid the rows of mobile homes at Briny Breezes, there were few signs of life except for Rhea Weber trimming a flowering bush with her clippers. "No other fools have stayed," said CANALS Telephone lines set up for drainage problems By Robert P. King Palm Beach Post Staff Writer If your home or property is flooded this morning, South Florida water managers can help you figure out where to turn. The South Florida Water Management District has started a 24-hour hot line to field reports of flooding, blocked canals and other drainage problems caused by Hurricane Floyd. The district's computers can also help residents determine which of the region's myriad drainage districts, local governments and homeowners' associations controls the canals, ditches and culverts in their areas. On the water district's own canals, the agency will send crews out as soon as it's safe to assess damage and clear obstructions, spokeswoman Ann Overton said. The district's waterways generally are large ones such as the Hills-boro or West Palm Beach canals, prominently marked by signs bearing a smiling Freddy the Alligator. For other canals, "well take down all of (the residents') information," Overton said. "And then well call them back to let them know what we found out" She also cautioned that waterlogged streets, swales and even yards are normal after a heavy rain. In flat South Florida, they're designed to be part of the drainage system. District meteorologists predicted 4 inches of rain in Palm Beach County and 6 inches in Martin and St. Lucie Counties, though individual spots may get more. They expect no flooding from storm surges, Overton said. The district has been lowering its canals since Sunday to make room. Water managers chose to remain at their headquarters in suburban West Palm Beach, which is not designed to handle winds greater than 120 mph. The South Florida Water Management District's hot line is (561) 682-6932. People can also dial (800) 432-2045, Ext 6932; or (561) 686-8800, Ext. 6932. On the Web, the district's rain and hurricane information is at www.sfwmd.gov curre2weather.html Other drainage agencies that residents may need to contact include: Lake Worth Drainage District Serves eastern Palm Beach County from West Palm Beach to Boca Raton. 737-3835 or 498-5363. Indian Trail Improvement District Oversees a 50,000-acre area in western Palm Beach County that includes The Acreage. 793-0874. Northern Palm Beach County Improvement District Covers most of northeast Palm Beach County. 624-7830. D North Palm Beach Heights Water Control District 844-5205 Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District: Covers 7,767 acres north of Wellington, east of The Acreage and west of Royal Palm Beach. 793-0884 B South Indian River Water Control District Serves Jupiter Farms, Palm Beach Country Estates, Egret Landing and the Jupiter Park of Commerce. 747-0550. B Ritta Drainage District, Clewiston: (941) 983-8121 B Hobe-St Lucie Conservancy District 546-5700 - i k ' t - ,. . - . X ' tj 1 - County sees need to add more spaces OVERLOAD From 1A Coral Springs. School principals were asked to take more evacuees than they had planned. "We have room here for 100, 150 max, but we got 320," said a beleaguered Sharon Walker, principal at Lake Worth Middle School. Walker closed her gates at 9 a.m., turning back scores of storm refugees. Police officers in a golf cart stood guard at the entrance with a crudely penned cardboard sign: "Fairgrounds open. We are closed." That actually was only half-right Tensions rose when people who had been turned away at other shelters and sent to the fairgrounds arrived and could not get in there either. County officials opened two more rooms at the fairgrounds by afternoon, and assigned nine sheriffs deputies to keep order. Through the morning, televised reports from the county's Emergency Operations Center complicated matters by saying "no one would be turned away" at any of the county's shelters. Miscalculation and recent problems with state inspectors were responsible for the embarrassing and potentially dangerous shortage of safe refuge, Bonvento said. "It was such a large storm that more people reacted than in the past," Bonvento said. . Last month, the state Division of Emergency Management inspectors decided that 12 of the county's 23 shelters did not comply with standards and could not hold up under powerful storms. It was a loss the county couldn't afford, Bonvento said. Just finding room to stretch out was a luxury most shelters could not provide. At Bear Lakes Middle School in West Palm Beach, latecomers were given places to sit, but not enough room to lie down. The shelter had about 500 people squeezed inside the school's chorus and band rooms, plus a sheltered wing for special education students. The cafeteria and gymnasium, probably the largest rooms, can't be used either because they have too many windows or the roof didn't pass the state's inspection, said shelter manager Bill Bullock. Nobody was turned away, but some opted for less crowded shelters, said Red Cross volunteer Kim Terranova. Bear Lakes had run out of toilet paper by noon. Barbie sleeping bags were in fashion. Coloring books came in handy. Some families came with gallons and gallons of water. Others drank the Red Cross' blue punch. People came armed with cans of tuna and bags of Tostitos. Shelter managers at William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens started turning people away at 1:15 p.m. when the number of evacuees swelled to 510, nearly 400 more than capacity. Despite the crowd, the environment was comfortable. In the cool Dwyer auditorium and adjoining hallway, people mingled or watched the 10-foot TV screen on the stage that showed local news and later switched to the movie Baby Geniuses for a matinee show. The Red Cross even served lunch in the cafeteria: ham and cheese on a bagel, chicken soup, milk and fresh fruit The amenities elsewhere were more modest and the mood more tense. The shelter at suburban Boynton Beach's Christa McAuliffe Middle School was overflowing by midmorning. The three school rooms managed by the Red Cross were designed to hold 200 people; by 10 a.m. 486 people had registered for the night. By 11 a.m., school Principal Terry Costa had ar- ? ' . : v..-. a - : i ; ' it-' . , ' . - y ' ' ) V- I : . : - id - w i Aim ( rr : - I If t I .- ,t T ft ; : f- ;: : j - ' ',, . . ? t . f r,f I . . J, . , ..... ; - - ; - s I r. ' AIRLINE TRAVEL Canceled flights strand travelers across country The Associated Press Hurricane Floyd stranded thousands of vacationers and business travelers around the country Tuesday as airlines grounded hundreds of flights. Most of the inconvenienced passengers were headed to or from Florida, where several airports closed. Some train service on the East Coast was suspended. American Airlines canceled nearly 400 domestic and international flights through Miami, one of the carrier's four main hubs. Delta Air Lines also canceled some flights stopping in Savannah, Ga. In midafteraoon, Continental Airlines canceled all its remaining Florida-bound flights from Newark International Airport in New Jersey, airline spokeswoman Michelle Tracy said. It flies 60 or 70 times a day from Newark to Florida cities. Continental also would probably cancel flights to coastal South Carolina and Georgia, Tracy said. US Airways shut down operations in coastal Florida and South Carolina cities, Savannah, Ga., and in the Bahamas. Train service was affected, too. CSX Corp., a rail company that also moves freight on its lines, was sharply curtailing its operations because of the storm, affecting Amtrak and commuter lines. Workers at its central dispatching facility in Jacksonville headed home. Besides earlier cancellations into Miami, Amtrak halted service on CSX lines between Washington and Miami, Washington and Pittsburgh, and some areas of Michigan. About 30 to 40 Amtrak trains run on the tracks each day. Commuter rail lines in Maryland, northern Virginia and Washington that use CSX rails were also suspended. Tourists at Miami International Airport faced a second night of sleeping on the floor as hotels filled to capacity. Some tourists were out of money. Long lines formed at Burger King and other airport businesses still open. "It was complete chaos," said Dolores Person, an Irish tourist who missed a connection to London on a four-month trip around the world. "It wa a really nice trip until we got here." JASON NUTTLEStaff Photographer ' Rosemary Mossinger pushes her grandson, Steven Blajanen, into seriously crowded Lake Worth Middle School for temporary shelter Tuesday from their mobile home and Hurricane Floyd. ". r ranged for an additional two rooms to hold the overflow. It was a decision an exasperated Costa believed she should not make alone. "I insisted that (county emergency managers) come down here," she said. "I didn't feel the school district should assume the responsibility for opening more rooms." Undermanned volunteers struggled to handle the needs of the evacuees. "We just can't do any more," said Shari Anderson, a Red Cross staffer at the McAuliffe school. That's it" By evening, that was about enough for every-; ; body. Most people left the shelters as Hurricane . Floyd turned away from the coast The Red Cross said less than a third of them spent the night . The county knows, though, that more shelters-, are needed for the next time around. . -. ; "When we get back to work it's going to be our number one priority," Bonvento said. B Staff writers Susan Spencer-Wendel, Joe Brogan, ' Shannon Colavecchio, Mary Ellen Flannery, Alexan- dra Navarro Clifton, Marcia Gelbart and Clay Lambert ' contributed to this report. j. j '

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