The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on September 15, 1999 · Page 14
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 14

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Wednesday, September 15, 1999
Page 14
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12A THE PALM BEACH POST WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 1999 MSL LOVD 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 SMITH General manager, Hyatt Regency Tampa Jesus Flores of Belle Glade took 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'0 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. 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 iiuuic iu men-tin, via. uic acinic 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 ivriters Sanjay Bhatt; Bill Douthat and Michael Van Sickler contributed to this story. 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, "we'll take down all of (the residents') information," Overton said. "And then we'll 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.govcurre2weather.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. North Palm Beach Heights Water Control District: 844-5205 fl Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District: Covers 7,767 acres north of Wellington, east of The Acreage and west of Royal Palm Beach. 793-0884 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 .'t - 1 tin s' V f 9. ' ..- 4 -, i ST"- J?- r V AIRLINE TRAVEL Canceled flights strand travelers across country Many were unprepared for refuge SHELTER From LA it's safe," said Ruth Reichert, a resident of Pine Lake Village. Most of the 460 residents of the Jensen Beach mobile home park sought shelter Monday at the county's first evacuation call, said Reichert, a first-time evacuee. "I put the awnings down, moved a lot of things inside the screen room and took a few pictures and some money," she said. . Fellow Pine Lake resident Willard Hogle had different priorities. "Pulled the plug on my electric organ," he said. "I don't want that to burn out." Most of the evacuees at Morningside's shelters also were residents of mobile homes who vowed to stay the night regardless of what forecasters said. Others, like apartment dweller Bonnie Sloat, stayed because they feared winds would be high enough to hurtle objects through their unboarded windows. They've changed everything 50 times so we don't know what to think," said Sloat, who fled to the shelter with her two children at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday after listening to a late weather forecast Monday. "All I know is that when a hurricane bigger than the state you live in is coming straight at you, you gotta find the safest place possible for your kids." Ominous forecasts late Monday prompted thousands of St. Lucie County residents to pack Red Cross shelters, forcing some shelters to turn families away because school hallways were filled to capacity. Many shelter refugees said it was the first time they'd felt too scared to ride out a hurricane at home, and the lack of preparations showed, Red Cross and school officials said. A school janitor was so concerned about four elderly women that he drove them to a nearby discount store one of the few that remained open Tuesday so they could buy cots. Despite the Red Cross' advice to bring food and water from home, both were plentiful at Morningside, when residents were treated to what one evacuee described as a "six-course breakfast and lunch" from the cafeteria's freezers. Dinner was hot tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches and popsicles. "We had scrambled eggs, sausage, juice and ' toast for breakfast and fried chicken, pizza, corn and beans for lunch," said 64-year-old Carole Hardi, who was so struck by the school's generosity that she and three neighbors volunteered to serve meals to the crowd. Assistant shelter manager Marilyn Seward said the Red Cross will reimburse the school for the cost of the food. School shelters routinely serve hot meals when electricity is available, and they bring in peanut butter and jelly during blackouts. At Jensen Beach Elementary School, Heather Nicol, 9, brought some homework, but she assured her father, Kenneth it was done. , . . .... i Uif !. ' - , T ' -JL f I N'T c V ' . . . . --.. j - -.i i ..(.. (ih). ZI TC? :. 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 midafternoon, 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 wty- a really nicetrip until we got here." JASON NUTTLEStaff Photographer Rosemary Mossinger and her grandson Steven Blajanen, 2, left their mobile home Tuesday for temporary shelter at the Lake Worth Middle School. "I wrote my spelling words three times each," Still, most evacuees said they weren't scared of Heather said. the storm inside the shelter. Kenneth Nicol wasn't planning to bring his That's why we're here, to keep from being family to a shelter, but one look at Floyd on TV was scared," Hogle said. enough to convince him. Elizabeth Beatty, 10, wasn't scared, but for a ' "I wouldn't ride out this one," he said. "It's too different reason, big." "I've been in a million storms," she said. ! 102 volunteer to ride it out at Kennedy Space Center The Associated Press CAPE CANAVERAL Just over 100 workers volunteered to stay behind at the evacuated Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday to ride out Hurricane Floyd. NASA feared the storm could destroy the launch pads and hangars, j : Forecasters warned the storm: could pass 40 miles offshore, bringing winds of 114 mph this morning. NASA evacuated its approximately 12,500 workers Monday and closed down the space center. It also reduced its skeleton staff to 102, instead of the usual 120. "Everybody else is gone. It's kind of eerie out here," NASA spokesman George Diller, one of the volunteers, said by telephone from a fortified building at the space center. "I kind of can feel the concern growing." NASA feared not only the wind but also the storm surge. The space center is only 9 feet above sea level. And its space shuttle hangars and lpunch pads are designed to withstand wind of no more than 125 mph. - . All four shuttles, worth $2 billion apiece, are indoors. At nearby Cape Canaveral Air Station, four rockets , stood exposed on launch pads. The next shuttle missiop is scheduled for the end of October but ' probably will be Relayed because -of ' the interruption iirwork. ' ' :r

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