ONDBEAT: Fleeing Floridians leave little room at Brunswick County inns

North Carolina isn’t normally a northern state, but that all changed this past week when a surge of evacuees from a more windblown southerly state stormed up our way.

While the Carolinas mostly dodged a deadly, destructive cannon named Hurricane Irma, Floridians weren’t nearly as fortunate as mandatory evacuations were ordered for much of the country’s third most populous state renowned for its sunshine, except for those hurricane times when the sun don’t shine.

As nearly 7 million people or one-third of the Sunshine State’s population fled and flooded northbound thoroughfares, many came up our way in search of sustenance, shelter and calmer skies and seas.

Local inns were heavily booked as travelers bearing Florida tags checked in.

Days Inn Shallotte?

“You just missed it! Our last room sold out yesterday,” read one hotel-reservation website Saturday morning.

Comfort Inn Shallotte and Rodeway Inn Shallotte?

Ditto, ditto.

Sea Trail Golf Resort and Convention Center?

“Booked 2 times in the last 24 hours,” a double room “in high demand.”

Ocean Isle Beach’s equally popular Islander Inn had been booked “6 times in the last 24 hours” and Winds Resort Beach Club “2 times in the last 24 hours.” Ocean Isle Inn and Sunset Inn in Sunset Beach looked pretty booked, too.

Brisk, depleting reservations were also posted for the Holiday Inn Express and Best Western Plus Westgate Inn & Suites in northerly Leland, and at least three inns in Southport had also earned “high demand” designations through this week.

While Brunswick County may be benefitting from a groundswell in business, evacuees were understandably on edge as unladylike Irma began her treacherous trek up the Florida peninsula.

My own son debated driving to his old Carolina home but, not wanting to join the massive I-75 snail lines inching out of state, compounded with concerns about gasoline shortages along the way, decided to stay rooted in his ground-floor apartment that’s at least tucked away from either side of the storm surge in north central Flo-Rida.

For the first early days of his confinement, his nosy reporter-mom bombarded him with long-distance questions.

Did he have enough gas? Ice? Water? Food? Plywood? Neighbors in the same boat?

What about an ice chest? Generator? Weather radio? Non-electric can opener? Fully charged cell phone? (So I could call again later.)

Some questions he answered in the affirmative. The other ones he wasn’t worried about, which worried me.

I suggested one of the household hurricane hacks floating around the Internet to fill the bathtub with water. I’m not sure why. It’s just one of the things you’re supposed to do, like depleting water and bread shelves and stocking up on wine and Doritos, when a big storm is looming.

He immediately nixed the idea. He said if he wanted to take a shower, there’d be “all that water in the tub.”

Though he’s no longer in the Marines, I had to remind myself of the motto, “Once a Marine, always a Marine,” my interpretation at the moment being he could see this storm through with or without his mama on the other end of the line.

Here’s hoping all other Floridians, whether they’ve fled the state or not, can do the same.

Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.