Hurricane Irma: Georgia hotels fill up as Floridians flee monster storm

The hotel he manages in mid 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 Southeastern U.S.

"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.

A hotel in Valdosta, Georgia is full for the next week.

A manager at 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 made landfall Wednesday on the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda and is churning its way through the region on track for the U.S.

The Category 5 storm could cause major damage, though it's too early to predict its exact path.

“It's hard to even conceive of winds this strong,” Atlanta meteorologist Brad Nitz posted on Twitter.

Irma's winds have been clocked at 185 mph, with sustained gusts measured at more than 200 mph.

It's expected to hit the U.S. mainland this weekend, on Sunday.

A woman looks at heavy surf as Hurricane Irma approaches Puerto Rico in Luquillo, on September 6, 2017.
Irma is expected to reach the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by nightfall on September 6.

Credit: AFP Contributor

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Credit: AFP Contributor