Evacuees are already setting up camp in Northeast Georgia as they get off the Carolina coast ahead of Hurricane Florence, but they aren't finding many places to stay in Gainesville.
That's because most of the local hotels are already booked up with athletes, coaches and guests in town for the Dragon Boat World Championships on Lake Lanier.
"Just with the Dragon Boat World Championships, we literally have filled up...90-percent of our hotel rooms," said Regina Dyer, Manager of Gainesville's Convention and Visitors' Bureau. "There might be a few rooms scattered here and there, but the majority of our hotels are completely booked."
Dyer estimates some 1,110 athletes are in town for the event at the Lake Lanier Olympic Park. It's an event that lasts through the weekend, so the guests won't be leaving anytime soon. She said it's possible Hurricane Florence could mean flight delays, which would translate to even longer stays in Gainesville.
"We're trying to hang on to as many rooms as we can in the event that some of our athletes are unable to travel due to the hurricane," Dyer said.
Dyer said tourism officials in different Georgia counties coordinated efforts when Irma hit last year about this same time, and she said they'll probably do the same thing this week to make sure Florence evacuees can find a place to ride out the storm
"We want to be able to help our friends who are having to be evacuated, but we also want to make sure that our visitors here aren't stranded - it's a fine line," Dyer said.
Dyer said some Florence evacuees have found accommodations at Don Carter State Park on the north end of Hall County.
"They have three of their campsites booked for people that are evacuating, so they are coming," Dyer said.
Ironically, when Hurricane Irma forced evacuations into the region in Sept. 2017, Gainesville was hosting the Atlanta Dragon Boat Festival, so the two worlds of evacuees and dragon boat competitors are converging on Gainesville once again this September.