Airbnb has decided to host guests affected by Hurricane Michael for free in Florida from October 8 to 29. The storm, which made landfall yesterday as a category four storm with 155mph winds, is already the third-strongest storm in recorded history to hit the continental US. The storm has flooded numerous beach towns and felled trees in north-west Florida.
The short-term rental company has announced that homes in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama will provide free housing for "displaced neighbors" and "relief workers deployed to help." More than 100 homeowners have agreed to open their homes for guests, and the website has encouraged others to help as well. The program is expected to last until the end of the month but individual hosts can decide on which days they are available to let their homes.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said at a news conference yesterday that it was too late for residents in the path of the storm to flee their areas. People in need of housing can go to the Airbnb site for more information. Airbnb previously enacted a free housing program for hurricane relief during Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
Storm-surge warnings have been issued for Panama City Beach and Keaton Beach in Florida, and for Ocracoke Inlet and Duck in North Carolina, the US National Hurricane Center says. Many residents have ignored evacuation warnings and are now stranded in flood areas. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses have been left without electricity in Florida, Alabama, and Georgia.
Hurricane Michael landed near Mexico Beach, Florida, at around 2 pm yesterday. So far, only a Labor Day hurricane, which struck Florida in 1935, and Hurricane Camille, which hit in Mississippi in 1969, landed with greater force. Michael swept through Florida unabated and persisted as a hurricane as it moved inland.
Florida officials have said that a man was killed when he was crushed by a tree in Gadsden County, and in Seminole County, Georgia, a carport was lifted by a gust of wind and struck a mobile home, killing an 11-year-old girl. The hurricane had previously killed at least 13 people as it crossed Central America: six in Honduras, four in Nicaragua and three in El Salvador.
"There are so many downed power lines and trees that it's almost impossible to get through the city," Apalachicola mayor Van Johnson told Reuters. In Mexico Beach, numerous homes were submerged in water, and many buildings in the state's Panama City area were severely damaged. "We are catching some hell," Timothy Thomas, who was waiting the storm out with his wife in their home in Panama City, told the Associated Press.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long said that the White House had expressed concern that buildings constructed before 2001 would not able to withstand such high winds. "We just hope those structures can hold up," President Donald Trump responded. "And if not, that they're not in those structures."
States of emergency have been declared in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina. Communities in north-west Florida and North Carolina are still under threat of flooding as rising waters move inland. The Carolinas, where residents are still recovering from the floods of Hurricane Florence, are expected to be seriously affected.