Hurricane Florence's sweep through the Carolinas began this morning, with winds of up to 73 mph serving as just the beginning of the destruction the Category 2 hurricane promises to bring to the southeastern states. The threat posed by the storm prompted the mandatory evacuation of one million residents along most of South Carolina's coastline and parts of North Carolina and Virginia. To help mitigate the turmoil and stress of the evacuees, Airbnb joins several companies offering free or discounted services to those seeking safety.
Airbnb, the house-sharing platform with more than 600,000 properties listed in the United States, is helping coordinate complimentary shelter through its "Open Homes" program. Deployed in times of emergency, such as during last year's Hurricane Harvey, the program allows hosts with listings in the affected area to waive lodging fees for those forced to leave their homes on such short notice. The company's website states more than 300 hosts have elected to welcome evacuees into their homes for free. To see the properties available through the Open Homes program, shelter-seekers will need to first register for a free Airbnb account, go to the Open Homes website and click "Find Shelter."
Logging onto the internet to search for shelter got a little easier with the announcement on Wednesday by telecommunications company Comcast that 127,000 of its Xfinity wifi hotspots in the southeast will be available to anyone in need, regardless if they're an Xfinity subscriber or not. Users currently with an internet connection can visit Xfinity's website for a map of hotspots. Spectrum also opened more than 5,000 wifi hotspots in the Carolinas to anyone with a mobile device, and users can find these oases of digital connection on Spectrum's website.
Residents in the hurricane's path who still haven't evacuated the area may want to consider taking to the skies. Delta and JetBlue both have instituted a fee cap on tickets for flights out of storm zone, and American, Delta, and United will waive their customary fees on baggage and pets traveling in the cabin for passengers trying to fly to safety. Evacuees braving the roads might not have to leave quite as many of their possessions behind as they originally thought, as U-Haul announced 30 days of free storage at 94 facilities located across the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia.