Hotels fill with evacuees

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 11, 2005

The Selma Times-Journal

As Hurricane Dennis slowly made its way inland, many evacuees from the Gulf Coast began arriving in Selma searching for a safe place to stay.

It wasn’t long before the majority of the hotels in the area booked all their available rooms, according to several hotel representatives.

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Veronica Burton, front desk clerk for the St. James Hotel, said the Water Avenue hotel will not likely have any rooms available until next week.

“All our rooms are taken,” Burton said. “A lot of people started coming in yesterday. Most of them were from Florida, Mobile and the surrounding areas.”

Alabama Power also booked several rooms at the hotel for its crew, Burton said, which she takes as a good sign that any power outages this weekend will be quickly restored.

“Hopefully, this means we can get our power back on quick,” she said.

Burton said she is not looking forward to having a repeat of Hurricane Ivan.

“I got stuck here last time. My relief person lived in a wooded area and couldn’t make it into town, so I had to stay all night,” she said. “We got candles for everybody and the police kept riding by checking on us. The front desk has to be open 24 hours, so I was the door keeper.”

Lula Wood, front desk clerk for the Ramada Inn, said her hotel is also booked solid for the next several days.

“We’ve had to turn people away,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of people coming here for the past three days.”

Like the St. James, Wood said work crews with Alabama Power have rented a majority of the hotel’s rooms.

“Alabama Power is coming in next week and they have 80 rooms,” Wood said. “We are probably going to be full from now through the end of the month.”

Representatives from Selma’s Best Western, Days Inn and Hampton also said they will not have rooms available at least next week.

“People from Mobile and Florida starting coming in on Thursday,” Annie Strong, front desk clerk for the Best Western.

Lisa and Jerry Williams, a couple from Mobile, were among the evacuees in who managed to find a room in Selma on Saturday.

Sitting in the lobby of their hotel watching the weather channel on TV, the Williams’ said they were glad they made it out of the Gulf before the storm hit.

“We’ve been through this before, so we knew to leave early,” Jerry said. “Right now, we’re worried about our house, but it managed to survive other hurricanes. I’ll be glad when this is over so we can go home.”