By Ed Brock
With the strongest effects of Hurricane Ivan still a day away, the new Family Dollar off South Main Street near Jonesboro was already out of basic supplies.
"They've been killing me," Manager Nicole Hunter said Wednesday afternoon. "Batteries, flashlights, water."
But Raquel Woods-Smith of Hampton said she wasn't at the store that afternoon to buy supplies.
"I don't think it's going to be that bad this time," Woods-Smith said. "I'm more concerned for my sister. She's in Huntsville."
And as Ivan was whipping toward shore near Mobile Bay in Alabama Wednesday local safety workers were beginning to hope most of the worst of the storm was going to be west of Clayton County.
"We're not expecting it to be as bad as Hurricane Frances was," said Vacal Caldwell, training officer for the Clayton County Emergency Management Agency.
Thousands of people were still streaming out of Mobile and New Orleans Wednesday morning and Interstate 65 had been turned into a one-way northbound evacuation route between Mobile and Montgomery.
At 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Ivan was centered about 170 miles south of Mobile and moving north at 13 mph. Forecasters said Ivan could produce a coastal storm surge of 10 to 16 feet, topped by large waves. It was still a Category 4 hurricane with 135-mph winds and was expected to make landfall early Thursday morning.
This morning Clayton County should see rain and winds of about 20 to 25 mph rising to 30 or 35 mph by the afternoon, said meteorologist Kent McMullen with the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City. The winds might rise to 50 mph by Thursday night and the storm, most of which is expected to hit central Alabama and extreme northwest Georgia, could bring rain to the area for the entire weekend, McMullen said.
Caldwell said they were only expecting evacuees from the south to come as far as Macon.
"We don't expect to set up any shelter operations in metro Atlanta," Caldwell said.
While nearly 30 groups of people camped out on the grounds of the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton after evacuating from Florida during Hurricanes Frances and Charley, nobody was there on Wednesday, AMS spokeswoman Angela Revell said. Revell has been talking to friends of hers in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
"From what they've told me everybody's going west," Revell said.
On Wednesday Delta Air Lines canceled its flights to New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Mobile, Fort Walton, Pensacola and Tallahassee, Delta spokeswoman Peggy Estes said. The flights to the Florida and Alabama airports may be back by around noon Friday, depending on the damage sustained at those airports, and a little later for Louisiana.
Passengers should go to www.delta.com to get information on how their individual flights would be affected.
Delta also cancelled its flights to San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday as a result of Tropical Storm Jeanne. Jeanne was threatening to turn into a hurricane Wednesday in the Caribbean as it approached Puerto Rico. At 11 a.m., it had wind of about 70 mph, just a few mph below hurricane strength, and was about 45 miles south-southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Long-range forecasts showed it could be near Florida's east coast as early as the weekend.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.