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Posted 9/14/2017

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Mobile District campsites host thousands displaced by Hurricane Irma

By John Barker, Mobile District, public affairs specialist

Tina White’s family was relieved to call Carters Lake campground home over the weekend while she and her family rode out Hurricane Irma after being forced out of their southern Georgia homes.

White’s Carters Lake campsite was one of 535 sites at 10 project areas that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District made available to accommodate Hurricane Irma evacuees.

“Many district campgrounds remain open this time of year,” said Amy Cobb-Williams, program manager for the district’s Natural Resources Division, “and the district delayed scheduled seasonal closure of some campgrounds to meet the potential demand for evacuees displaced by the storm. In all, we estimate that we hosted thousands of Irma evacuees.”

Mobile District's Commander, Col. James DeLapp, spearheaded the initiative to keep the additional campgrounds open for hurricane evacuees.

At another of Mobile District’s campsites, the Black Warrior-Tombigbee’s Foscue Creek Campground, many local campers gave up their campsites to accommodate the influx of evacuees fleeing the storm. In addition, local civic and church groups welcomed the evacuees by bringing them hot meals.

"This was a small initiative, but I was happy to see that so many people came to our campsites. If we kept one family safe from Hurricane Irma, it was worth it," DeLapp said. "I really appreciate the efforts of all of our rangers and project staff who helped with this initiative. I am also grateful for the volunteer organizations, churches and Boy Scouts that delivered meals to the evacuees.”

White decided to ride out 2016’s Hurricane Matthew in her trailer home, located in Guyton, Ga., and vowed she would never do that again.

“Going to north Georgia was definitely a better plan,” she said. “Six family members and I left our home on Saturday and headed north to the Carters Lake campground. We didn’t have much money but we stopped and bought an $85, 10-man tent and reserved the campsite for $18 a night.”

White set up camp with her husband, two daughters, son-in-law, grandson, 11-month-old grandbaby and even her dogs and cats.

“It was nice weather the day we set up and then the rain and 60 mph wind came ripping through,” she said. “It was scary but no trees fell. The whole family was stuffed in there but we held up good. It was really a decent experience. The park rangers were nice and kept checking on us. The bathrooms were great and well-supplied. Everyone there was helpful.”

The family stayed through Monday and returned to their home in southern Georgia on Tuesday.

“There were a couple of limbs down and a lot of water but nothing major happened,” she said. “I’m definitely glad we left. It was important to get my family out of harm’s way. Protecting our lives was the most important thing. We were all dirty and it wasn’t fun but we managed and stuck together.”