Monroe County comes together to welcome evacuees

Irma Forsyth Evacuations

If you've been on the highways today, traffic is already stacking up with evacuees trying to find shelter from Irma. 

Hundreds of people are exiting off of Interstate 75 trying to find rooms in Forsyth. 

Nicole Butler spoke with a family of evacuees about their next steps and also spoke with the mayor about what the city is doing to help.

Unpacking bags, the Devries family is evacuating from Fort Myers, Florida.

"I'm an old boy scout so it's always be prepared," John Devries said.


Thinking he would take short breaks until they got to their destination, nothing could've prepared him for the amount of traffic already on the road.

"Oh no, the rest areas were packed. People parked all over the grass, lines sometimes half a mile before you can even get to the rest area. That was a nightmare," Devries said.

After driving bumper to bumper for 16 hours, they finally found a hotel room in Forsyth, but they can't get too comfortable..

All 800 hotel rooms in town, even the KOA camp grounds have been booked up forcing many to keep heading North.


"One room available for one night and when we asked them to call ahead and see there are no rooms available from here to Chattanooga or through Chattanooga," Heather Fitz says.

Heather says her family is trying to make the best of the hard situation, but leaving their lives behind isn't easy.

"It's frightening and it's mind boggling to think that you may not have a home to go back to," Heather says.

So Monroe County is banding together to try to make Forsyth a home away from home with evacuees.


They are making 1,000 welcome bags full of snacks, water and more for the visitors.

And, they are going beyond just their visitors.

Forsyth City Police and the Sheriff's Department will carry special bags in their cars filled with things like toothpaste, a wash cloth, and hand sanitizer for those who weren't able to get a hotel or are stranded.

Mayor Eric Wilson said people put a lot of thought into each bag.

"Just to let them know that we are thinking about them, we are concerned about their situation and we know they'd rather not be here, but while they are here we want to really welcome them," Mayor Wilson says.

Wilson says they'll hand out the bags all afternoon to  each hotel in town.

He says if needed, they will make even more to accommodate all of their visitors as more people check in.

© 2017 WMAZ-TV


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