Fla. girds for Georges; Caribbean regains footing By Gay Nagle Myers / September 23, 1998 Share 1 -- KEY WEST, Fla. -- Tourists evacuated the Florida Keys prior to the expected arrival of Hurricane Georges. On Tuesday, local officials recommended visitors fly out before the storm disrupted air service. Some tourists and residents drove to safety on the 110-mile road that links the islands. Meanwhile, Caribbean hoteliers and tourism officials scrambled to assess damages in the aftermath of Georges' swath through the region earlier this week. Although telephone and electric services were sporadic on the Caribbean islands hardest hit by Georges, early reports Tuesday seemed to indicate that hotel damage was less than originally feared. However, private homes and residences took a heavy hit. Access to roads and highways was difficult because of downed telephone poles, power lines and debris.Following are the latest damage reports:Puerto RicoGeorges killed three people, shut down 80% of the power and knocked out all telephone service on the island.Jorge Davila, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., said that most hotels had contingency plans in place before the storm hit. Many guests were evacuated or moved to shelters as was the case at the 392-room El San Juan Hotel & Casino, five minutes from the airport. That property will be open for business this weekend. The property's centuries-old huge Banyan tree in the garden courtyard ended up in the pool but will be replanted, according to general manager John Russell.El Conquistador Resort & Country Club suffered no structural damage but does have glass and landscape damage. Richard Cortese, general manager, said all roofs are intact, telephone lines are up and there is hot and cold running water. "The resort will be fully functional within a few days," Cortese said. The property had 180 guests at the property at the time of the storm. All are fine and will be booked out on the first available flights.Only minor damage was reported at the Westin Rio Mar, Embassy Suites, Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort, Marriott San Juan and Wyndham Palmas del Mar. All are fully operational. The Ritz-Carlton San Juan had some damage to landscaping and carpets and had sand in the pool. The resort is not taking reservations through Oct. 1; guests booked for the next week are being accommodated elsewhere. The 48 guests at the hotel during the storm were accommodated in a meeting room powered by an emergency generator. El Canario by the Sea, El Prado Inn and the Regency are closed and have not set reopening dates.Initial reports indicated damage to the passenger terminals and one runway at the airport. American Airlines will operate 16 flights to Puerto Rico between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Wed., Sept. 23. Continental will have three daily flights between Newark and San Juan as of Sept. 23.AntiguaTourism director David Fernandez reported infrastructure damage to telephone and utility systems as well as extensive damage to property and several churches. The airport is open but limited to flights between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.Club International's Club Antigua had minor flooding and roof damage and will reopen by Nov. 21. Guests will be accommodated at Club St. Lucia in the meantime. Sandals Antigua Resort & Spa sustained "cosmetic damage" and will close until Dec. 1 for repairs. Under the resort's hurricane insurance policy, all guests whose vacations were interrupted by the storm will get a replacement trip free of charge at a later date. Galley Bay resort and St. James Club will reopen Oct. 21. Jolly Harbour Marina Club Villas are open on an EP basis to Nov. 20 when the inclusive option is available. The Royal Antiguan is open to relief workers; operators should not book clients until after Oct. 4. Jumby Bay had no structural damage and will reopen on schedule Dec. 16.St. Kitts & NevisSt. Kitts reported extensive damage to the airport and private homes. A curfew was in effect after the storm. Jack Tar Village had substantial wind and water damage to guest room buildings and public areas. The hotel is closed; no reopening date is set. The Four Seasons Resort Nevis will close for water and landscaping repairs. It will reopen Nov. 1.DominicaA mudslide closed the road temporarily between the capital of Roseau on the southwest coast and Portsmouth in the northwest.St. Maarten/St. MartinThere was road flooding and "fairly minimal damage," a tourism representative said.U.S. Virgin IslandsMost hotel guests left the island before the storm hit. Remaining guests on St. John and St. Thomas were moved to large properties such as Marriott's Frenchman's Reef and the Renaissance Grand Beach Resort, both of which were hurricane-proofed after the '95 storms.St. Croix's Buccaneer resort, the largest on the island, had only minor damage, according to Elizabeth Armstrong, general manager.Airports on St. Thomas and St. Croix were to reopen yesterday, with commercial flights operating on today. The islands reported fairly light damage to hotels, although telephone and electric service remained out at press time. Major roads are passable.British Virgin IslandsPeter Island resort will reopen Oct. 15 after repairs to landscaping. All other BVI hotels are open as usual. Biras Creek, closed for expansion, will reopen Oct. 23 as scheduled.AnguillaMalliouhana Hotel, closed for annual refuribishment, will reopen Nov. 21 instead of Nov. 1.Amy Spiezio contributed to this report.