Originally created 09/22/99

Hurricane evacuation under fire



SAVANNAH -- Savannah Mayor Floyd Adams Jr. has apologized to the people of Savannah who complained about treatment they received at a shelter in Perry last week during the evacuation for Hurricane Floyd.

Mr. Adams also admitted this week that the Red Cross was not prepared for the number of evacuees it received. But he also blamed the Perry police chief for overreacting.

Mr. Adams met Monday with members of the Houston Middle Georgia American Red Cross chapter to talk about what happened during the evacuation. During the past few days, several people who were evacuated have complained about the shelter at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and AgriCenter.

About 3,500 people from Savannah were bused to Perry, just south of Macon, after last week's evacuation order, in a trip that lasted more than 12 hours.

Although Perry officials said 99 percent of the people were fine guests, Police Chief George Potter said there were some problems, including evacuees who broke into two recreational vehicles.

Chief Potter blames most of the problems on inmates who were released from the Chatham County Detention Center early because of the hurricane. He said he has documented two arrests of Savannah evacuees in Perry, and made reports on several vehicle break-ins. But Mr. Adams doesn't believe it.

"They did not have those burglaries and other crimes they say they did," Mr. Adams said. "The chief overreacted."

Mr. Adams claims Chief Potter brought police dogs to the fairgrounds, although Chief Potter said the only dog the Perry Police Department has is Tosca, a 45-pound drug dog that was used to keep drugs out of the fairgrounds. There were no other dogs brought to the shelters, he said.

"How does he know if we were overreacting if he wasn't even here?" Chief Potter asked. "Some of them weren't the most properly behaved people. Some were rude, abusive and not the kind of people we see normally in Perry, Ga."

One of the problems, everyone agrees, is the number of people taken to Perry.

"They (the Red Cross) did not expect 17 bus loads of people," Mr. Adams said.