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Some remain on Alabama coast as Danny bears down

July 19, 1997

GULF SHORES, Ala. (AP) _ Only a few diehards remained today to welcome Hurricane Danny to this normally bustling Gulf Coast resort town, while the storm itself was stalled offshore.

At least one death was blamed on the slow-moving storm, which barely qualified as a hurricane with 75 mph sustained winds. Danny was expected to come ashore today between Gulfport, Miss., and Apalachicola, Fla., threatening to bring up to 20 inches of rain and serious flooding.

At 5 a.m. today, five hours after the storm was originally expected to make landfall, it remained nearly stationary about 25 miles southeast of Mobile and about 50 miles west-southwest of Pensacola, Fla.

The National Weather Service said the storm was expected to gradually turn to the northeast, and any movement to the north could bring the center over land at any time.

An unidentified man’s body was found Friday afternoon near a swamped sailboat at the mouth of Mobile Bay about 20 miles west of Gulf Shores. A small-craft advisory was in effect at the time because of strong winds.

Off the coast of Pascagoula, Miss., Danny ripped an oil drilling rig from its berth and rammed it into a research tank. About 500 gallons of fuel were spilled into Bayou Casotte.

Mississippi’s Gulf Coast counties were under flood watches.

In Alabama, the storm’s slow advance kept vacationers guessing. But they moved to safety inland by the end of the day as it became obvious the storm would hit.

The American Red Cross estimated 1,600 people were in shelters in Mobile and Baldwin counties late Friday.

``It’s 10 times deader now than it is in the winter,″ said golf course employee Ben Bells of Gulf Shores, killing time Friday night with friends who work at a beachside hotel.

Part of the reason for the exodus was not Danny’s gusty winds or the potential for flooding, but its timing. The storm began threatening at the end of the week, which is normally a time for one set of vacationers to leave their rooms and another set to arrive.

But for some, it took more than a Category 1 storm to justify leaving even one day early. Kept off the beach by rain, they turned to souvenir shopping and watching television.

A recommendation to leave at the Ramada Inn off highway U.S. 98 didn’t deter guests in six rooms, including one couple who didn’t want Danny to interrupt their traditional anniversary trip, said front desk clerk Jason Crace.

One group of adults and children even played in the surf, despite the wind and periods of blinding rain.

``We’re used to tornadoes, we’re not used to hurricanes,″ said Susan Robinson of Huntsville. ``We wanted to come experience it. ... We may never experience anything like this again.″