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Volcano affecting European skies is touching local lives
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Travel agent Janette Williams works with a client over the phone Tuesday afternoon at her home-based Williams Holiday Travel. The recent volcanic ash cloud drifting across Europe may postpone some of her client’s travel plans as well as her own trip abroad next week.

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Longtime travel agent Bill Adams of Flowery Branch talks about the travel crisis being caused by a volcano ash cloud floating across Europe.

For those hoping to travel soon to Europe, everything is up in the air — quite literally.

Ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland is drifting like a cloud across the continent, disrupting air travel and causing chaos for tourists on the ground.

West Hall resident Janette Williams knows the situation too well, as both a travel agent with clients hoping to making the trek and as a ticket bearer herself.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen or which way (the cloud) is going to go, and there’s really nothing we can do until right before the time to depart,” she said.

Williams, who runs her business, Williams Holiday Travel, out of her Maplewood Lane home, has a client who is headed to Barcelona, Spain, and feels pretty confident about that person’s travels, as the volcanic cloud is mostly a North Atlantic event.

She is set to leave next week for Venice, Italy, flying through Amsterdam, which is closer to the ash cloud. It’s a trip she has been planning for five or six months.

“I’m going to be real disappointed if I don’t get to go, but there’s nothing you can do about it,” she said. “When it’s an act of God, you just have to deal with it.”

Like Williams, Bill Adams of Adams Renaissance Travel in Flowery Branch doesn’t have any clients now stranded in Europe but does have several planning the big trip.

And he’s frustrated trying to help them.

“You can’t even get in touch with the airlines. All the phone lines are jammed and everything. And they can’t tell you anything ... basically, the information you get is (from) the news media.”

He likened the disaster, which is costing the travel industry about $200 million per day, to what happened following 9/11.

“At that time, I had clients stranded all over the world,” Adams said, recalling the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. “But (it ) was looking ... more or less like a situation where, within a few days, it would clear itself up.

“This situation is different because we don’t know whether this thing is going to continue to go on for a month or six months, or if this other volcano will erupt and ... (it) could be more devastating. ... It’s a bad situation, I know that.”

A couple of North Georgia residents are having to deal with the air troubles.

Bryan Miller, who is in Europe as part of the University of Georgia’s Verona Study Abroad Program, decided to visit Greece, along with 12 others, from April 14 to Sunday.

Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull erupted April 13.

“Due to the volcanic ash, our return flight from Thessaloniki, Greece, to Milan, Italy was canceled on Sunday,” Miller said in an e-mail Tuesday. “We were then put onto a flight leaving Monday. That, too, ended up being canceled.”

The group is scheduled to fly back today, leaving at about noon.

“We are just hoping and praying we get to take off,” Miller said. “Three cancellations in four days for the same flight is certainly unheard of. But given the past week, anything could happen.”

Unlike many travelers, the group was able to grab hotel rooms near the airport for three extra nights.
“We’ve seen others ... not so lucky,” Miller said.

Jamie Reynolds of Gainesville was in the Czech Republic visiting her oldest son, who is studying there for the semester, when the disaster struck.

She said, also by e-mail, that she is in the country with a group of other U.S. travelers.

“Three could not depart Monday due to (the) airport closure (in) Prague and limited flights out of Prague,” Reynolds said. “The train was booked solid by Friday night (and) buses went fast as well.”

Her party is staying at a hotel in Old Town Prague.

“They are discounting for customers who need to prolong their stay and have been very helpful,” she said.

One discouraging part of the whole experience was that the skies looked perfect for flying Monday.

“The weather is perfect — no ash in sight,” Reynolds said.

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