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Who wants to go to Atlanta?

Area hotels and B&Bs are booking many reservations from those fleeing hurricane Irma.

When asked why the refugees are coming to the Thermal Belt, instead of someplace such as Atlanta, Christian Wolters, innkeeper for the Red Horse Inn in Landrum asked, “Who wants to go to Atlanta?”

Wolters said he was hearing stories of long gas lines and others having to cancel their reservations because they couldn’t find gas. Some people from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. said they literally couldn’t leave because there was no gas and the roads were gridlocked,” he said. “They were just going to hunker down where they were.”

Marianne Blazar, owner of the Orchard Inn in Saluda said they were also getting lots of cancelations in addition to numerous reservations. She said many of the cancelations were because people decided not to travel as they had planned before the hurricane threat.

“They decided not to come here because they were afraid they couldn’t get back home,” Blazar said.

Blazar added that she and her husband, Marc Blazar, have been on pins and needles trying to get word of friends, family and former neighbors in the Virgin Islands. The Blazars used to live in St. Thomas and still have property there.

“We’ve heard from most of our friends in the islands,” Blazar said. “Lots of them have lost their homes, but they are fine.”

The Blazas don’t know what has happened to their property and still have no word on many of their friends. She explained the cell service is out in that area and the people have to go to the top of the mountain to get a call through. “That’s hard because the roads are blocked,” she said.

Facebook has been a blessing she said, as neighbors are telling neighbors when they are OK and the words is filtering to the states. “I just hope it’s not as bad in Florida [as it was in the Virgin Islands],” she said.

According to Orchard Inn Assistant Inn Keeper Leeanne Panter, the inn has nine rooms and five cottages. Panter said they normally reserve one cottage for people with pets. “We’ve opened up all the cottages for pets,” she said.

Blazar said they are currently booked for the next few days, but that is changing. She said as of now, they have rooms available on Tuesday. “The best thing is to call and see what may be open,” she said.

Columbus Days Inn Manager Pete Bhakta said he was getting lots of reservations, but many cancelations as well. “It’s fifty-fifty right now,” he said. “They’re panicking. They don’t know what situation they will be in.”

Bhakta said he thinks a lot of people are hearing that the area may get lots of rain and be without power. He guessed that many might have heard the hurricane was going to hit the area and are going farther north.

“I don’t know where they’re going to go,” he said. “They can’t go back to Florida.”