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Yacht Basin expecting heavy traffic throughout weekend

DEMOPOLIS-Gov. Bob Riley said today that state agencies are making preparations for Hurricane Dennis and he urged citizens near Alabama’s Gulf Coast to begin taking general storm precautions now. Riley urged residents of the Alabama Gulf Coast to make plans to evacuate well before the storm reaches landfall.

“With the ferocity of Hurricane Ivan still fresh in our memories, all Alabamians understand how important it is to be ready as early as possible,” Riley said. “The Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) is coordinating emergency preparations and response. The Alabama National Guard, the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Transportation are already taking action to prepare for the possibility of landfall here in Alabama, and I’m encouraging all residents along our coast to take general storm precautions now to avoid a rush later.”

Many Gulf Coast residents who plan to move their boats to safer waters are expected to begin a mass exodus from the coastal waters as throughout the weekend. Many plan to take refuge at the Demopolis Yacht Basin.

Fred Hansard, Manager of the Demopolis Yacht Basin, said he and his staff were working hard to be sure everything is in place when the boaters arrive. Hansard said the volume of calls from interested parties has been astounding.

“We will probably have today to get prepared and then after that it is going to be wall to wall,” Hansard said. “We have probably had 300 to 400 calls already from people who will be coming in.”

The basin expected boaters to arrive steadily from Friday until the beginning of next week.

“Some will start in this afternoon,” Hansard said. “Some will come in Saturday and the slower boats will hit Sunday.”

The basin can hold 160 boats in the dry storage yard and others on the water. Hansard said when the basin is full they will have to explore other options.

“We are parking them in the water and after a point in time I will have to close off the marina,” Hansard said. “Then they will go to rattlesnake bend or Foscue Park. We will just have to put them wherever we can get them.”

Hopefully, Demopolis will be a safe choice to dock. Hansard said anything would likely be better than the damage that will be seen along the Gulf Coast.

“The damage here will be a whole lot less here than what it would be if they were at the coast,” Hansard said. “This one is already a four and we don’t know what it is going to go to.”

Friday morning Hansard and staff spent most of their time caring for boats that were already docked in the waters and on land. Hansard said many of the owners were not in Demopolis and they were trying to take care of their boats before the influx of Coastal boaters arrived.

Though the boaters are coming to town on a sour note, it could still mean good news for the local economy. Hundreds of boaters are expected which will mean hundreds of shoppers at local grocery stores and other outlets.

Jay Shows, President of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce, said it is unfortunate that the boaters must evacuate under these conditions but it would be a boost to the local economy.

“Usually, in a typical situation where there is an evacuation along the Gulf Coast all of our lodging places will fill up,” Shows said. “If they are operating at 60 to 70 percent occupancy the evacuation will usually take up the remaining 30 or 40 percent.”

How long the boaters remain in Demopolis will depend on the severity of the storm and the path it takes when approaching landfall.