Airbnb Offering Free Housing To Hurricane Harvey Evacuees

The storm made landfall Friday as the strongest hurricane to hit Texas since 1961.

As residents of Texas prepared for Hurricane Harvey to make landfall earlier this week, Airbnb announced Thursday it will offer free housing to those evacuating the storm through Sept. 1. The online home rental platform worked with hosts in San Antonio, Austin and Dallas to create a database of people who are willing to open their doors to displaced residents and relief workers. 

The initiative is part of the company's Disaster Response Program which was launched during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Hosts can volunteer to house individuals through opting-in on the Airbnb website

"We encourage hosts in safe, inland areas to aid in this effort by listing their available rooms or homes on the platform to help the growing number of evacuees," Kellie Bentz, Airbnb head of global disaster response and relief, said in a statement. "Our thoughts continue to be with everyone in the path of the storm, and we thank the dedicated government and emergency response personnel who are keeping our communities safe."

Hurricane Harvey was classified as a Category 4 hurricane when it struck ground northeast of Corpus Christi, Tex. on Friday night. With winds as fast as 130 mph, the storm is the largest hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since 2005, and, per the Houston Chronicle, is the strongest hurricane to hit Texas since 1961.

While Hurricane Harvey has been downgraded to a tropical storm, the slow-moving storm continues to trigger flood and tornado warnings across the state while over 200,000 residents remain without electricity. The National Hurricane Center expects some areas will receive 40 inches of rainfall, a prediction that senior hurricane specialist Mike Brennan described to NPR as "catastrophic." 

"Our thoughts continue to be with everyone in the path of the storm," said Bentz. "We thank the dedicated government and emergency response personnel who are keeping our communities safe."

Cover image via NASA/ NOAA GOES-R

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