Still no room at local inns

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 26, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; A new wave of potential evacuees began calling the Natchez area this week as Hurricane Rita headed into the Gulf of Mexico.

Predictions that the storm will bear down on the Texas coast by the week’s end had callers from places such as Houston and western Louisiana seeking shelter in Natchez, said Christy Shelby at the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau.

&uot;I’ve called all around. There is nothing,&uot; she said. &uot;Evacuees from the Louisiana-Texas border are calling mainly looking for Wednesday night.&uot;

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At Ramada Inn Hilltop, manager Bonnie Stanley said she knew of no calls from Texans to the Ramada this week. It would matter little, however, as the inn is full.

&uot;We have been full since before Katrina hit,&uot; she said. &uot;The first week and a half we had the same people, and then there was a rollover. These people are not moving.&uot;

Jose Oakley, general manager of Isle of Capri Casino and Hotel, said the Isle hotel also has no rooms. &uot;We’re sold out. With the current evacuees and the Red Cross, we’re basically booked up probably for the next 10 days at least,&uot; he said. &uot;We might see some rooms open up once Rita does what she’s going to do.&uot;

Kay DeWeese, manager of Comfort Suites in Vidalia, La., said her rooms have been sold out since the onset of Katrina. &uot;We’re about 80 percent evacuees at this point, and they are mostly four to a room,&uot; she said. &uot;People are still calling, now from places like Lake Charles (La.), and we just tell them about the Web site and to look a little further north.&uot;

Most of the guests at Comfort Suite are staying 14 days at a time, their rooms paid for through the federal programs set up for shelter assistance to Katrina evacuees. &uot;Each time they hope they can leave and get closer to home,&uot; DeWeese said.

Ron Brumfield, general manager of the Natchez Eola Hotel, said he has not seen a surge of new calls for rooms but that the hotel virtually is full every day.

&uot;At the end of the day, we’re always close. Some leave but another batch flows right in,&uot; Brumfield said. &uot;We can’t take any more long term.&uot;

Some of his guests believe that &uot;by Friday week, they’ll be able to go back home. They know they have houses to go back to, but they can’t get there yet.&uot;

Days Inn also is full, said Heidi Smith. &uot;We are full to capacity and working on a day-to-day basis. People evacuating from Texas have been calling, but we’ve been full since the week before Katrina.

At Natchez Pilgrimage Tours headquarters, &uot;phones have been ringing off the hook with calls from people from Houston looking for places to stay in Natchez,&uot; said Jim Coy, president. &uot;People are going to have a difficult time getting rooms.&uot;