Hurricane Delta brought heavy rainfall to Kingston, Jamaica, as it strengthened.
Hotels often fill up after major storms with workers and residents whose homes are badly damaged, but potential back-to-back hurricanes affecting Pensacola may make it difficult for residents hoping to evacuate to a hotel.
Hurricane Delta, a Category 4 hurricane, is expected to make landfall along the Gulf Coast late this week, just three weeks after Hurricane Sally brought intense rain to Pensacola. As residents make evacuation plans, hotels in town are largely already filled to capacity with relief workers like debris haulers, said Rusty Branch, executive director of the Escambia County Destination Marketing Organization.
“After storms, hotels generally dry out and come back pretty quick,” Branch said. “It’s pretty typical after a storm to have a lot of occupancy for clean up folks coming into town so that’s a common thing. Now, whether or not they stay on a back-to-back storm … this will be very unique I think.”
Branch said there’s no one-stop resource to see all available hotel rooms in Escambia County, but he suggested those in need of lodging check frequently online for any openings if, for instance, relief workers leave to evacuate their equipment.
Otherwise, Branch said residents’ best bet is to look at the path of the storm and avoid hotels anywhere near it.
That was also the general advice of Escambia County officials Tuesday during a news conference. Laura Coale, spokesperson for Escambia County, told the News Journal that now is the best time to make evacuation plans and residents should try going east to Jacksonville, for example.
During the news conference, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson stressed making plans to stay with friends or family in higher areas as well. He said while there will be shelters open, not everyone can access a shelter because of COVID-19 concerns.
“I would think about family and friends that you have that are in a high area, that you can go to and you can go visit. I would highly encourage you to think about that right now and I would highly encourage those of you who live in higher areas to think about your friends in lower areas and find a way to offer assistance to them,” Robinson said.
Raj Patel, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express and Suites on Interstate 10, said occupancy has been at 90% or higher. The hotel has gotten a few calls already asking about weekend availability.
His advice for the people who are able to nail down a hotel room is remain in it while they need it.
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“I would not recommend anyone to move around a lot, moving from one hotel to another or moving from apartment to hotel because it is a little bit tough after a hurricane. You’re not able to find a room,” Patel said.
For those who evacuated out of town, he said it’s important to not come back until they have a guaranteed booking. A lot of times hotels cannot provide rooms because of demand or storm damage.
Madison Arnold can be reached at [email protected] and 850-435-8522.
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