Red Top hosts hurricane evacuees

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As Florence, a full-fledged Category 4 hurricane, aimed its 140 mile-an-hour winds and life-threatening storm surges at South Carolina, Lori Wilson had a feeling that she and her family needed to leave their home in Eutawville, a small town halfway between Columbia and Charleston.

"We saw the damage caused two years ago by Matthew and it was a smaller storm — Category 2 or 3 — there was a lot of flooding in our area and it's a long way from the coast," she said. "A little voice just told me this was going to be a bad one. I knew we had to go."

Lori, her husband, Martin, and their children, Bella, Cloee, Justin and Elizabeth packed everything they could fit into an old pickup truck converted to a camper and hit the road. 

"We left at 4:30 Monday morning," Lori said. "We heard the state was going to start reversing lanes on the interstate at 8, so we left to try to avoid the traffic. That camper doesn't have air conditioning and we would swelter if we got stuck in traffic."

Unsure where to go, the Wilson's did what any modern-day evacuee would do — they asked Google to refer them to the nearest place they would be safe. 

"The first thing that popped up was Red Top Mountain," Lori said.

They were Red Top's first evacuees. Since then 20 more storm evacuees have arrived at Red Top.

Red Top Mountain Assistant Park Manager Shawn Kelley tacked a sign to the information board outside the visitor's center asking storm evacuees to register.

"All Georgia State Parks are ready to receive anyone needing shelter from the storm," he said. "Here at Red Top, we have dry camping, a place to pitch a tent and some toilet facilities at no charge, and we also have regular campsites and cottages for those who want a little more convenience."

Other Bartow agencies said they are ready to lend help if it is needed.

Larry Brooks, executive director for the American Red Cross of Northwest Georgia said they are monitoring the storm's progress and are prepared to respond should a need arise in Georgia or South Carolina.  A spokesman for the Cartersville office of Blood Assurance said it is sending blood to the Carolinas in anticipation of the storm. 

Meanwhile, the Wilson family waited to hear about the storm's progress. Meteorologists predict it will stall after it makes landfall sometime Thursday night or Friday morning dumping up to 30 inches of rain in inland areas.

The timing of the storm is particularly vexing for the Wilsons. Last month, they purchased a single-wide mobile home — the first home they have ever owned — and they fear it will be destroyed. 

"Right now, I don't think we will be able to go home for months," Lori Wilson said. "And I don't even know if we will have a home to go home to."