- By Mitchell Northam The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
When a hurricane threatens the southeastern part of the United States, Atlanta Motor Speedway has typically been among the first to open its campgrounds for evacuees.
That’s the case this week as Hurricane Florence approaches the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Those three states and Maryland have declared states of emergency as the Category 4 storm makes its way toward land.
Atlanta Motor Speedway, located in Henry County, announced Tuesday it would open its campgrounds for evacuees trying to escape Hurricane Florence’s path.
For folks using dry RVs and tents, space to camp at the speedway’s Legends Campgrounds is free. Near the campground is the Rinnai Shower Station, which will give evacuees free access to hot showers and restrooms during their stay. The campground is equipped to handle “thousands” of campers, the speedway says.
For $20 per day, the speedway also has a limited number of camping spaces with water, power and sewer hookups in its “premier campground.”
Also, pets are allowed to stay too, free of charge, according to the speedway’s Twitter account.
Some evacuees have already arrived at the speedway. Melody Rawson of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, drove down in her red Dodge Caravan on Wednesday morning. She — along with three other adults, her son in a wheelchair, two dogs and a bird — left her first floor apartment around 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Rawson said the family lives about 10 minutes from the ocean.
But Rawson’s trip from Myrtle Beach to Henry County wasn’t easy. She said the van got a flat tire on I-20 Tuesday night. After fixing it, the family arrived around 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
“We’re going to pitch a tent and pray for no rain,” Rawson said. “If it doesn’t rain, we’ll be comfortable. If it rains, I don’t know what’s going to happen because I don’t want to camp in the rain. So, we’ll see.”
The NASCAR track hosted more than 100 evacuees from Florida for several days last year when Hurricane Irma threatened the Sunshine State.
The speedway was built in 1960 and its president, Ed Clark, remembers evacuees first coming to the track’s campgrounds in 2004, when Floridians were trying to escape Hurricane Frances.
“We did it that time,” Clark told the AJC last year. “And going forward, anytime there’s been a storm, folks will call us and it’s an automatic yes. It’s easy for us to do. We got 843 acres.”
AJC photojournalist John Spink contributed to this story.