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GA prepares for Frances

Frances could affect Georgia.

BY DANIEL YEE | ATLANTA | September 3, 2004

Georgia responders were preparing for potential flooding that may happen from heavy rainfall that Hurricane Frances may bring to the state.

Indeed, people need to be wary of the havoc a hurricane can make - even if it appears the act of Mother Nature is missing them, said Georgia state climatologist David Stooksbury. Hurricane-force winds can be felt 100 miles from a major hurricane's center.

Winds from past hurricanes such as the 1995 Hurricane Opal and the 1989 Hurricane Hugo caused damage in Georgia's mountains. More people have died from inland flooding than storm surges in the last three decades, he said.

Georgia officials have steadily been working to prepare for the hurricane. On Wednesday, Gov. Sonny Perdue declared a state of emergency for all of Georgia in order to prepare for possible damage and localized flooding. The order was also made to take advantage of the state's tough price gouging law that will protect Georgia and Florida residents from being taken advantage of in purchases of critical supplies such as gas, food or lodging.

Georgia is "a port in the storm for those evacuating Florida," said Craig Lesser, commissoner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, which has been working with hotels in the state to provide a place to stay for Florida evacuees. The state's campgrounds have been offering free or reduced rates for evacuees. Atlanta Motor Speedway opened two large campgrounds free of charge for evacuees.

Finding a room hasn't been easy, especially with the Labor Day weekend crunch. Most hotel rooms in southern Georgia have been filled during the Labor Day weekend, the economic development department said.

Staffers at Georgia's welcome centers worked overtime to find rooms for evacuees. The visitor center in Valdosta logged more than 4,000 cars that stopped there on Thursday.

Many of the 2.5 million Florida residents who were ordered to evacuate crowded Interstate 75 into Georgia on Friday. Experts believe the hurricane will reach Florida's eastern coast by late Saturday.

Southern Georgia hospitals have been working to help those who need medical attention. State health officials -- and those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - also are ready to help in Florida if they receive a request from Florida emergency officials.

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