Vicksburg, Warren prepare as hotels fill up

Published 11:35 am Monday, August 27, 2012

Hotels in Vicksburg began to fill Sunday as Tropical Storm Isaac moved into the Gulf of Mexico and threatened the central Gulf Coast.

Meanwhile, Vicksburg and Warren County residents were urged to stock up on fuel and supplies if power is lost.

“We’re booked,” Kimberly Smith a guest services representative at Hampton Inn said with a laugh, “and I guess everybody else will be.”

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She said the inn on Clay Street has 123 rooms, all of which are reserved for Tuesday and Wednesday.

About 30 out of 129 rooms at Quality Inn on Clay Street had filled with evacuees by this morning, guest services representative Paulette Gammage said.

For others, the rush was yet to come.

“We do have some evacuation reservations,” said Tommie Hazzlerigg, a front desk clerk at Econo Lodge on East Clay Street. “We expect them to start coming in today.”

At Best Western on North Frontage Road, Manager Peter Manusukha said he owns hotels near Baton Rouge and they are full of evacuees.

In Vicksburg, he said, he’s ready for a rush.

“We are prepared, but our main concern is losing power,” he said.

A rush on pet-friendly hotels — a hot commodity during hurricane evacuations — began Sunday and were on a “first-come, first-serve basis,” same as regular rooms, said Julie Ford, director of sales and marketing for MY Hospitality, operator of Fairfield Inn, Holiday Inn, LaQuinta Inn and Suites, Days Inn and Motel 6. Ford said pet-friendly rooms come with a $150 deposit. Overall, about 20 rooms were left in the five hotels this morning, Ford said.

“We’re not holding any rooms for anybody,” Ford said, guessing they’d be full by tonight.

Holiday Inn Express on East Clay also reported being full.

In southeast Louisiana, where Isaac is predicted to make landfall, mandatory evacuations were issued Sunday in St. Charles Parish and parts of Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes. Current forecasts show Isaac as a Category 1 hurricane at the mouth of the Mississippi River early Wednesday, seven years to the day since Hurricane Katrina devastated the central Gulf Coast.

Wind speeds between 35 and 65 mph were expected in Warren County if the track holds, Warren County Emergency Management Director John Elfer said. Flashlights and batteries are a must for emergency kits for spotty power outages with uncertain durations, Elfer said.

“It depends on how bad the wind gets,” Elfer said. “People need to have batteries, flashlights, a two- or three-day supply of water, medicines and gas.”

Elfer said his office line was available to tell residents what needs to be on emergency supply items. The number is 601-636-4415.

Local law enforcement prepared to secure fuel for their vehicles. Warren County deputies and Vicksburg police officers were notified that they may not get any days off, depending on the severity of the storm.

“We are going to plan for the worst and hope and pray for the best,” Sheriff Martin Pace said.

American Red Cross volunteers in Vicksburg were in a conference call this morning, said Janice Sawyer, readiness and response manager. The local office on Belmont Street is part of the 15-county Mississippi Region Capital River Chapter.

Selena Standifer, a Red Cross spokesman in Jackson, said a list of shelters expected to open would be released later today.

Five to 10 local volunteers are expected to coordinate from state headquarters if Red Cross-sponsored shelters open in Vicksburg, officials said when the local chapter moved into a new office in July.

In 2005, a half-dozen churches in Vicksburg and Warren County sheltered hundreds for nearly two months who evacuated Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.