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Several local hotels welcome evacuees ahead of Hurricane Ida

Published: Aug. 29, 2021 at 1:42 PM CDT
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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Hurricanes are issues, residents along the Gulf of Mexico are all too familiar with.

In recent years, people have experienced several from Michael to Sally. Now as we near the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, another storm is projected to make a major impact in nearby states.

As Hurricane Ida prepares to make landfall, several evacuees are relocating from the Louisiana and Mississippi areas to Panama City and nearby areas to avoid potential damage from the impacts of the storm.

“People in Bay County understand hurricanes, and we’ve been through this and the people of Louisianna have been there before and we hope to be there for them now,” David Demerast, St. Joe Hospitality Director of Hospitality said.

With the influx of evacuees to the area, several local hotels are offering refuge.

“Anybody who feels the need that they need to evacuate we always want them to know they are welcome here,” Paul Bonnette, Days Inn Panama City Beach Florida Marketing Director said.

One evacuee tells why he and his family relocated to the area ahead of the storm.

“As the reports indicated we were going to get a stronger storm like up to a category four, you know obviously we wanted to hit the road and not take any chances with that,” Steve Thornton, an evacuee from Metairie, Louisiana said.

Thornton says it’s not the flooding he’s concerned about but rather the similarity of the hurricane to potentially be just as damaging as Katrina.

“We’re not really concerned with flooding, but this could be a wind of that and rain and a loss of power for several days. So we decided just to bring the pets, and the grandbabies, and the kids and get on out of harm’s way,” Thornton said.

Several locals express how devastated they are for those who have had to evacuate.

“It breaks your heart, that these are the circumstances, but we do understand,” Demerast said.

“Whenever I meet people from New Orleans or Louisiana, we always have kinda a connection. So I always want them to understand you don’t want to be in a dangerous situation like this,” Bonnette said.

“It’s inconvenient but it’s better to be safe than sorry. You know possessions can be replaced with insurance, but lives can’t,” Thornton said.

Hurricane Ida made landfall on Sunday.

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