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Weather causes Fla. family to get stranded at Don Carter State Park

POSTED: February 13, 2014 3:54 p.m.

Work-related schooling brought the Stricklands from the Sunshine State. This week’s huge winter storm kept them stuck in a cabin off Lake Lanier.

“This is pretty (weather) for a vacation, but I don’t think I could live in it,” said Danielle Strickland.

Her husband, Justin, had planned to attend classes in Suwanee for his mechanic’s job with Mercury Marine.

But soon after the family of three from Homosassa, Fla., near Tampa, arrived at Don Carter State Park in North Hall County, snow began falling, and the school was canceled.

And Justin, Danielle and their 2-year-old son, Wyatt, found themselves unable to travel.

The family had hoped to take some trips, including to Helen and Dillard, after classes were done, “but we weren’t able to make it out of the park,” Justin said.

The park, which opened last year off North Browning Bridge Road, meanwhile, had converted from a recreation area to a “staging area” for first responders from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Georgia Forestry Commission, said Matt Owens, the park’s assistant manager.

But Owens said the park was looking after the young family to make sure its needs were met.

“They were almost overaccommodating,” Justin said, chuckling.

Park officials made sure the family had a “good stack of firewood,” and they de-iced its front porch and the sidewalk in front of its cabin. They even brought hot coffee.

And Wednesday evening, after learning Wyatt had suffered a cut to his foot, they rushed to provide first aid, Justin said.

The good news, he added, is that, throughout the experience, the family never lost power.

“It’s been a little disappointing (being unable to travel), but the views up here can’t be beat,” he said.

Plus, the family is getting its first-ever taste of snow.

“I’m a seventh-generation Floridian,” Justin said.

He added that he once saw “fake snow” on a ski slope, “but I have never seen snow fall at all.”

The family plans to head home on Sunday, just as the temperatures are expected to warm, the snow melts away and the park returns to normal business.

Danielle said she is eager to travel again.

“We’re a little stir-crazy, but it’s been fun,” she said. “My son loves it.”

Justin said he’ll likely return to the school in the fall and stay again at Don Carter — but next time hoping weather will cooperate.


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