Evacuees Arriving; Region 8 Hotels Booking Up

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) -- With a mandatory evacuation order for New Orleans, many in Louisiana are headed north.  Some of those fleeing Hurricane Gustav are stopping right here in Region 8.

"We're just really tired of being on the road.  We're tired of running from hurricanes," said Metairie, LA resident Richard Zimmerman.

Zimmerman and his family made this exact same trip three years ago.

"We left Metairie and we stopped in Jackson, Mississippi and the hurricane came through there, so we had to move onto Blytheville, AR.  We stayed here at the Holiday Inn for about a week," said Zimmerman.

The Holiday Inn in Blytheville is one of several hotels in Region 8 that is booked up, partly due to evacuees from Hurricane Gustav.

"As soon as we heard that they were possibly going to do the mandatory evacuations we set aside a block of rooms so we would have those for them," said Travis Butler, the Manager on Duty for Holiday Inn in Blytheville.

"The people in Blytheville were wonderful.  They treated us like family, so we're back here again for this hurricane," said Zimmerman.

The Zimmerman family is like a lot of other Louisiana families who didn't want to have to leave their homes again.

"It was a last minute thing.  We were trying to stay in Metairie and we decided that the storm was really getting too large and so we picked up and headed out," said Zimmerman.

These families have been on the road for 12 hours or longer and are tired and scared of what Gustav could bring.

"You really don't appreciate at all what you have until you don't know if you've got it to go back to or not," said another Louisiana evacuee, William Braden.

And for many, the question is if they are going back.

"We did a lot of talking on the way over here that we thought, maybe there's another place for us to live that's not the New Orleans area.  But, it's our home, so we're not sure.  No matter what happens we'll get back there," said Zimmerman.

Craighead County's Office of Emergency Management said there are also many hotels in Jonesboro that are filling up with evacuees.

There are also several shelters open in Region 8.  One shelter that is located in Jonesboro at the Allen Park Community Center can house up to 70 people, and as of Saturday night had 13 people staying there.  OEM officials tell Region 8 news they suspect there are many others in Jonesboro and surrounding areas that have not registered with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Services.