People Are Offering Free Housing To Hurricane Florence Evacuees
As Hurricane Florence seeks to land on the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina this week, communities across the Southeastern states are banding together to prepare for the Category 3 storm and offer relief to those being forced to leave their homes.
With more than one million people facing mandatory evacuation, those outside of the path of the storm are taking to social media to offer help and shelter. In recent days, several Facebook groups, including Hurricane Florence 2018 and Hurricane Florence Lodging For Evacuees, have popped up, featuring dozens of posts reaching out to evacuees who may need a place to go.
Residents in inland communities are also using city-specific Facebook groups, like the Wilmington, NC - Community Group, to open their homes to their coast side neighbors "I want to offer my space to evacuees **AND their PETS** who have limited resources and NO other options to stay anywhere else. (No longer listed on airbnb) This space is free to families and pets in need!" one poster wrote.
The groups are also serving as a basis for residents to trade information, such as which gas stations are still operating and what are the best routes to take during the evacuation. If phone service fails, participants are pointing each other to Zello, the free smartphone app that allows users to turn their phone into a walkie-talkie or two-way radio with a network or WiFi connection.
Facebook isn't the only platform where Hurricane Florence evacuees can find temporary lodging. Airbnb hosts in cities across Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Virginia are offering free stays through the online company's Open Homes Program, which helps displaced residents in the wake of natural disasters.
The company said it's encouraging those willing to list their properties for free to enroll in the program by visiting its disaster relief page. It also said it has alerted citizens in the evacuating areas about the program. According to the Airbnb website, $0 listings will be available until October 1.
If current weather patterns hold, Hurricane Florence may be among the strongest storms to make landfall north of Florida. According to the Weather Channel, landfall records show that only four Category 4 storms have made landfalls north of Florida since 1851, and all landed further south than Florence is predicted to hit.
On Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump shared a message on Twitter urging those in the path of Hurricane Florence to evacuate. "It is imperative that everyone follow local evacuation orders," he wrote. "This storm is extremely dangerous. Be SAFE!"
Cover image via ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP.