Furious Frances flops

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 9, 2004

Frances' fury ended up being nothing more than gusty wind and a good soaking tropical depression when it moved through the Camellia City late Monday night and early Tuesday.

According to the National Weather Service, Frances dodged most of Alabama as it moved north Monday, pouring a few inches of rain in the eastern part of the state, unleashing its remaining fury on Georgia.

The once powerful category 4 Hurricane Frances was downgraded to a tropical storm after making its first landfall in Florida.

It never could get its steam going again and never made hurricane status again before making landfall a second time on the Florida panhandle.

According to Jack Cullen, with the NWS in Mobile, the storm struck farther east than originally expected.

A few downed limbs were about all the damage by early Tuesday in Greenville.

While Greenville braced for the worst, those who had seen the worst were already in town.

Area hotels filled with people evacuating from the path of Frances.

On Monday, what would have normally been a holiday for grilling and family fun, a group of ladies spent the day doing laundry at a local Laundromat on North Conecuh Street.

"We got into town on Friday and luckily we got three of the last rooms available," said Donna Cornell of Daytona Beach, Fla.

"We had already been told that hotels were full as far north as Birmingham and we were exhausted.

People who have never had to evacuate at a moment's notice have no idea how exhausting it can be."

Cornell said it is not a matter of having the time to walk through your home and choose what to take; it is a matter of getting something and getting on the road.

"You don't pick and choose what you take," she said.

"You know that that if the storm is big enough and the evacuation order is widespread that you are going to be driving with a couple million people on the highway."

Cornell's sister, Patsy Silvers, said she simply grabbed garbage bags and stuff her and her children's' clothes into it and threw them into her SUV and left.

"It's not a pretty site, but you learn quick that it's easier to pack a vehicle with clothes-filled garbage bags than it is to arrange luggage," she said laughing.

"My husband got the short end this time because I forgot to grab him any underwear."

One thing the ladies agreed on was that they arrived in Greenville and found little to do with their children.

"We were directed here by the Red Cross," Cornell said.

"In times past, we have stayed in cities with putt-putt golf, movies or at least a bowling alley.

We're not knocking Greenville, the people have been really nice but we were hoping for something to do with our kids to keep their minds off the storm."

She said they feared driving northward to Montgomery because of the uncertainty around Frances' path.

"That would be my luck," Silvers said.

"I leave Florida to get away from the storm and get caught in it here."

The ladies all said they planned to return home to Florida early Tuesday and were anxious to get home to see how bad their homes may be damaged.

"We heard from some friends who said Daytona was hit pretty hard, so I'm a little scared of what we're going to find," she said.

"This is my third hurricane since I moved to Florida and it began with Andrew.

I keep moving north and they keep getting closer. I told my husband I'm about ready to move to Idaho.

You never here anything bad happening out there."

It was obvious from the parking lots around town that the Silvers and Cornells were not the only evacuees.

The hotel parking lots were filled with out-of-state tags, as well as the local eateries.