By Florence Rankin

TIFTON - Tift County School Superintendent John Harper said Tift schools would re-open today, but students who live on one of the 14 roads closed due to Hurricane Jeanne will have an excused absence

Berrien County schools remain closed today due to the condition of local roads. A spokesperson for the Berrien Board of Education said they hoped to open Wednesday. Berrien faculty and staff were asked to be at school by 10 a.m. today.

About 1,000 people in seven counties stayed in shelters opened Sunday by the Coastal Plain Chapter of the American Red Cross, chapter manager Laurie Vitale said Monday. In Tift County, three shelters - at Northside Baptist Church, Ty Baptist and Beulah Hill Missionary Baptist - housed 247 area residents.

Most of the evacuees either live in mobile homes or low-lying areas or have medical conditions, Vitale said. The chapter planned to keep the shelters at Northside and Ty Baptist open through the day or at least until the bad weather had completely passed. A shelter in Ben Hill County opened Monday in response to flooding there.

"Everything went great," said Vitale. "All of the shelters ran very smoothly."

Wylene Wilson, who led a team of volunteers opening the shelter at Beulah Hill for the first time, said their facility sheltered several elderly residents who did not want to be alone at home during the storm. "They weren't completely handicapped, they just wanted to have somebody there with them," Wilson said.

"We had good help, everybody was very cooperative and everything went fine."

Northside Baptist housed the most evacuees during the storm with 139, while Ty Ty had 72 and Beulah Hill had 36. The First Baptist Church also opened a Good Samaritan shelter that housed 40 local residents.

Area hotels and motels were full through the weekend as Floridians traveled north to escape yet another hurricane. Holiday Inn manager Kathleen Moore said most of the Florida residents who stayed there came from the Daytona and Vero Beach area and left for home Monday. The Holiday Inn was still full because of Georgia Department of Transportation HERO truck drivers and Georgia Power employees using Tifton as a staging area.

To contact city editor Florence Rankin, call 382-4321, ext. 209.

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