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‘Snowbirds’ are flocking back to Alabama coast

GULF SHORES (AP) — Northern retirees are returning to the rebuilt Alabama coast in what local officials hope will be pre-Hurricane Ivan numbers.

Known as “snowbirds” because they are escaping snow in their hometowns, the visitors usually stay from one to four or five months and help businesses in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach stay open all year and keep their core employees.

New Year’s Day is considered the official start of the snowbird season, and early indications from real estate management companies are “we’re going to have a very good year,” said Herb Malone, president of the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Before Hurricane Ivan hit on Sept. 15, 2004, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach used to attract about 16,000 snowbirds annually, and they would pump about $30 million into the beach economy. The damage from the hurricane caused the numbers to fall off the last two winters, but most of the rebuilding is now complete.

At Gulf State Park, Superintendent Hugh Branyon said all of the park’s 496 campsites are ready after a two-year rebuilding effort, and more than 400 have already been reserved.

He told the Mobile Press-Register that the park had “a good crowd” for New Year’s weekend.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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