Originally created 08/15/04

Georgia coastline stays calm



SAVANNAH, Ga. - For the Georgia coast, Charley never was.

For two days, the hurricane had been predicted to ravage the area. But Charley slid east below Jacksonville, Fla., moving out into the Atlantic and north toward the Carolinas, making landfall for a second time in South Carolina's Grand Strand resort region Saturday. It weakened to a tropical storm after it blew into North Carolina.

The only effect of the storm in Savannah came Saturday morning when a light drizzle fell, accompanied by mild wind gusts not even strong enough to ruffle a $5 umbrella or dislodge the Spanish moss hanging from the city's live oaks.

The Savannah River carried a mild current, but it was rivaled by the light puddles of rain flowing through the cobblestone streets that run along its edges.

The streets began to dry by midmorning as the sun and blue sky peeked through the clouds, and there was little sign of Charley churning off the coast.

Even on the islands off the Georgia shore, Charley didn't intimidate. Tourists were milling around Tybee Island, which had been under a voluntary evacuation Friday night, and St. Simons Island.

Terri Matthews, of St. Simons Island, said it didn't appear that many residents had left.

The Cobblestone Cafe in Savannah opened at its regular time of 7 a.m., but business was unusually slow because of Charley, said Chris Emerick, whose family owns the breakfast eatery.

"We never get hit for some reason," he said. "Unless it would've come directly for Savannah, we never were going to close."

Mr. Emerick said the cafe wasn't busy Friday evening, a sentiment echoed by many downtown merchants. The most crowded establishments along Savannah's typically lively River and Bay streets were an Irish pub and a karaoke bar.

Savannah authorities asked local entertainment establishments to close their doors early Friday night to keep the roads safe, Savannah-Chatham County police Sgt. Mike Wilson said.

Though the weather was mild, police said there was one fatality - an unidentified man was killed as he walked along a grassy median and was struck by two cars. Sgt. Wilson said the incident appeared to be more related to alcohol and failure to pay attention than to the weather.

"As we braced for the worst of weather conditions, we had a few incidents of crime, things that go bump in the night, if you will," Sgt. Wilson said.

An operations center set up Friday by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency was deactivated Saturday morning, spokesman Buzz Weiss said.

Gov. Sonny Perdue spoke with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush by telephone Saturday and pledged any assistance needed from Georgia to help Florida recover from the destruction of Hurricane Charley, which killed at least 15 people and left thousands homeless a day earlier, Perdue spokesman Derrick Dickey said.