Florence hotels near capacity as Hurricane Irma approaches U.S.

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Hotels in Florence are filling up with people evacuating Florida as Hurricane Irma approaches the U.S. coastline.

Four of the hotels on Hospitality Drive have about 60 rooms available. Less than 24 hours ago, there were about 200 vacancies.

As the threat of Hurricane Irma encroaches upon the coastal areas of the Carolinas, reservations for hotels along I-95 are filling up.

The Burden couple is traveling from Florida to Virginia to avoid the storm.

“We thought we should drive north and get ahead of the crowd because I-95 can be very busy,” explains Joyce Burden, who’s traveling from Jacksonville, Florida.

Burden says past hurricanes made them take storms and power outages more seriously.

“We’ve been down in Florida when a few hurricanes have gone through,” says Burden. “We didn’t have any damage to our property but we’ve had a lot of hot times without air conditioning. It can be very unpleasant.”

Dan Paola with Raines Hospitality says the phone is ringing nonstop with people from Florida and Myrtle Beach making reservations.

“With what we’ve seen happen in Houston and the effects of Matthew still being felt here from last year, it’s defiantly a very real threat,” explains Dan Paola, Raines Hospitality Operations Director. “People are doing a better job being prepared for it.”

Hotel staff members are prepared to work around the clock to make sure visitors are taken care of.

“This is what we sign up for,” describes Paola. “We are here to take care of people. We’re here to take care of each other. We will do that kind of as one big family.”

If the hotels lose power like they did last year with Hurricane Mattew, Paola says each hotel is stocked with extra water and non-perishable food items since they do not have backup generators.