The hotel he manages in middle Georgia is nearly 600 miles from Miami. But Ken Patel says Florida residents will be heading his way as soon as Thursday as Hurricane Irma churns toward the Southeast.
“They don’t know what’s going to happen, and no one wants to take the chance,” said Patel, who runs the Wingate by Wyndham in Warner Robins.
All of his rooms are booked, Patel said, and other hotels along I-75 are also seeing a surge in reservations. One Valdosta hotel is full for the next week. A manager of a Tifton hotel told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she couldn’t talk for long because the phones had been ringing constantly with people needing rooms.
“Usually we’re busy on the weekends, but not this busy,” Patel said late Tuesday. “We’re usually not sold out.”
Irma has not yet made landfall, but was approaching Caribbean islands Tuesday night. Forecasters warn the category 5 storm could cause major damage, though it’s too early to predict its exact path. The Channel 2 Action News weather team was tracking developments Tuesday, using social media to publish frequent updates.
“It's hard to even conceive of winds this strong,” Meteorologist Brad Nitz posted on Twitter. “At 5 p.m. Irma has winds sustained at 185 mph.”
In metro Atlanta, Irma’s impact is likely to be felt early next week.
“But the extent will be determined by the path of the storm and its strength as it moves north,” Nitz said. “That is all unknown for now, but Irma will weaken once the center moves over land.”