Locals brace for storm

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    Fort Worth may be more than 250 miles from the coast, but local residents are not taking chances.Fort Worth gas stations and grocery stores are flooded with customers and hotels are running out of rooms as Hurricane Rita makes its approach.

    A Wal-Mart Supercenter on Anderson Street is struggling to provide enough bottled water for customers who are stocking up in preparation.

    “We are swamped. All you see in the store are big baskets,” said Regina Hall, a telephone operator for Wal-Mart.

    Although the store is crowded and check-out lines are long, Hall said people “just seem happy to be alive.”

    “No one seems distressed or disheartened,” Hall said. “Customers are remaining calm.”

    A Sam’s gas station next to the Wal-Mart is also experiencing a rush of people.

    “We’ve been very busy but that isn’t really a problem,” a gas station attendant said. “The problem is people filling up and driving off without paying. We have seen a lot of that.”

    “Fuel and go” isn’t the only problem gas stations are facing.

    A Diamond Shamrock gas station on McCart Avenue and a Costco station on Overton Ridge Boulevard are completely out of fuel; and a Chevron gas station on Berry Street is out of regular unleaded fuel. Other gas stations in the area are reporting to be short on fuel.

    Hotels in Fort Worth are also feeling the effects of the looming hurricane.

    The Days Inn on University Drive is booked for the next week and Tina Perkins, a receptionist for the Days Inn said she doesn’t know why.

    “I don’t know if people are here for the dog show, the wedding or the hurricane,” Perkins said.

    The Comfort Suites on West Freeway is booked with Katrina evacuees and military personnel, said Jason Hearn, front office manager for Comfort Suites.

    “People are here on a tentative basis, and we plan to accommodate them for as long as they need,” Hearn said.

    The capacity of personnel at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth has nearly doubled after four military commands from the South relocated to Fort Worth, said Chief Clement, assistant public affairs officer.

    The Fleet and Family Service Center at the base is working to find schools for military dependents and lodging for military families, Clement said.

    “We are grateful for calls from families in cities like Weatherford, Crowley and Azle who have offered to take in military personnel,” he said.

    New arrivals at the NAS JRB are not limited to military personnel.

    Military aircraft from Corpus Christi as well as Louisiana and other parts of the South have been relocated to Fort Worth to prevent damage, Clement said.

    “We have anchored 124 planes on our base,” he said. “That seems like a light load compared to the 144 planes we had on deck when Hurricane Dennis struck.

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