Tennessee Valley hotels fill up ahead of Hurricane Irma's potent - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Tennessee Valley hotels fill up ahead of Hurricane Irma's potential landfall in Florida

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DALTON, GA (WRCB) -

Hurricane Irma has hit the Caribbean islands and it is headed toward Florida. 

After a mandatory evacuation was issued for Miami-Dade county, millions of people are leaving the sunshine state. On Thursday, traffic was backed up as far as the eye can see on I-75 near Ocala, Florida.

Some of those people made their way to the Tennessee Valley looking for vacant hotel rooms.

Hotel clerks in Dalton said they have received hundreds of calls from people trying to get away from Hurricane Irma. Several hotels are already booked and others are filling up fast.

In hotel parking lots, Florida license plates are appearing.

"You can tell they're not calling for leisure coming to stay the night. Even had a lady call back and cancel because she couldn't find enough gas to make it," Ben Wimpey, La Quinta's general manager said.

La Quinta General Manager Ben Wimpey said calls have been coming in from south Florida and the coastal counties of Georgia.

Hotels in the area have housed hurricane evacuees in the past. Wimpey said there's a reason people are heading in this direction.

"I think some of them start further south and they find out they're sold out and they just go town to town to town. There's still some uncertainty of the path," Wimpey said.

On top of hurricane evacuees looking for a safe place to stay, a senior softball tournament is in town.

Tourism Director Brett Huske said five teams from Florida and Texas canceled because of the hurricanes. He explains why Dalton is a popular stop.

"You don't have to wander off the interstate. We're all pretty condensed right there at the exit. So, that's probably a big part of it," Huske said.

Huske said the city has 800 hotel rooms within a quarter mile, but that probably won't be enough.

"When you start thinking about hundreds of thousands of people that could be evacuating because this is a huge hurricane, then it could come up beyond Dalton. Well beyond Dalton," Huske said.

Up the road in Chattanooga, it's a similar story since athletes from around the world are competing in the Ironman World Championship this weekend. Some evacuees are already staying there too.

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