Originally created 09/17/99

CSRA to the rescue

Whew, the Southeast, including the coastal areas, didn't get as badly clobbered by Hurricane Floyd as expected. More rain than wind damage, but it's hard to believe that there were parts of the Augusta-Aiken area that got little or no rain.

This doesn't mean emergen-cy management preparations in Central Savannah River Area communities were for nothing. Hurricanes are unpredictable and if Floyd had landed in a coastal area nearer to the CSRA, the preparations would have been vital to the security and health of thousands.

As it turned out, emergency personnel were very helpful in handling the thousands of coastal evacuees seeking shelter inland. Many more people poured into the Augusta-Aiken area Tuesday and Wednesday than even at Masters time.

But unlike the Masters, or other major events like the Georgia Games earlier this summer, there was no orderly planning ahead of time to deal with Floyd, either by the visitors or the communities.

Also during special events, local hospitals don't have to take in hundreds of extra patients from Savannah, Hilton Head, S.C., and other nearby coastal communities.

The medical personnel did a marvelous job handling the unexpected patient load. But they weren't alone.

Everyone pitched in at every level to ease the discomfort of evacuees, many of whom had been traveling for hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic with whiny, frightened kids and restless pets.

They were ready for some relief from the physical and emotional strain, and if they weren't fortunate enough to have booked a motel room in time, there were plenty of Red Cross-organized relief shelters -- churches, schools, and community centers -- available to take them in. Even weary pets were taken care of at North Augusta's Hippodrome.

It was a huge effort. "City employees went way beyond the call of duty," said Augusta Mayor Bob Young, and that included not only human services personnel, but also the Sheriff's and Fire departments. The heroic jobs Red Cross volunteers did for travelers at the relief centers and the Golden Harvest Food Bank did to get food to them also deserves special praise.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of more volunteers also pitched in throughout the CSRA. They were truly a godsend -- providing food, cots, blankets, and whatever else they could. Some even took families into their homes.

The only sour note was scattered reports of price-gouging, but for the most part hoteliers, restaurateurs and merchants were as hospitable and considerate as everyone else. Young said he was very proud of all the compliments he heard about the city's extraordinary kindness and hospitality.

CSRA residents did themselves proud dealing with the Floyd crisis. They also have plenty to be thankful for -- that their homes and businesses were spared Floyd's wrath. Sadly, many of the people temporarily housed here will find they weren't so lucky when they go home.


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