Ivan spares area
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Hurricane Ivan weakened to a tropical storm Thursday as it brought rains and high winds through North Alabama, but Hartselle residents saw very little damage compared to other areas of Alabama and the Gulf Coast.
Hartselle's newest hotel, Country Hearth Inn, located at off Highway 36 at I-65, reported all 40 rooms were booked for four nights during the week of the storm.
"We were full from people fleeing from the hurricane," General Manager Tammy Henson said. "It was unbelievable. We were turning people away left and right. We probably could have sold 100 rooms a night that week."
Henson said families from Gulf Shores, Panama City, Mobile, Fairhope and other coastal cities stayed at the inn and monitored the progress of the hurricane.
"It was a sad time, but it was a special time, too," Henson said. "All of the families got real close while they were here. Some of them knew their homes had been destroyed, but everyone banded together for support."
Henson said the staff at Country Hearth worked overtime to make the storm victims comfortable during the difficult experience.
"We tried to make them feel at home as much as we could," Henson recalled. "We held a coloring contest for the kids, had a special breakfast for everyone, and tried to keep everyone full of fresh baked cookies at night."
Henson said the inn kept current road conditions posted for the visitors through Sunday. However, before returning home, the families sat down together and wrote a letter thanking Country Hearth Inn for treating them like family during their stay.
"They all said they would come stay with us again if they ever pass near Hartselle," Henson said.
Residents of Hartselle were more fortunate than visitors to the inn during Hurricane Ivan's reign of terror.
The National Weather Service in Huntsville reported the top wind gust measured at Huntsville International Airport during the storm was 51 mph and rain amounts totaled 3.29 to 3.59 inches from Huntsville to sites in Falkville and Danville.
Flooding, downed trees and hundreds of power outages were reported in Decatur and other areas of Morgan County, as well as neighboring Limestone and Lawrence counties.
Although numerous Hartselle residents dealt with debris and fallen limbs and trees on their property, Hartselle Police Chief Ron Merkh said no reports of major damage or injury were made.
"I know some trees were blown down, but very little was reported," Merkh said.
Hartselle Public Works employees worked late into the night Thursday and early morning Friday to clear streets of limbs and debris.
In preparation for the severe weather, Hartselle City Schools decided early Wednesday afternoon to cancel classes Thursday and Friday. No damage was reported at any of the schools.
Hartselle Utilities reported no major power outage problems.