As Hurricane Florence began churning Thursday into the Southeast coast of the U.S., Columbus-area hotels were receiving reservations from those looking to escape the wrath of its high winds and flooding rains.
“We’ve got more hotels saying they don’t have availability,” Peter Bowden, president and chief executive officer of the Visit Columbus GA, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, said Wednesday. The city has more than 4,000 hotel rooms.
“In the beginning, the hotels tell us that people from the Georgia coast were calling to book, but because of the way the storm shifted, there were cancellations,” he said. “But just as quickly as those cancellations were happening, they were filling up with people from the Carolinas looking for alternatives.”
Hurricane Florence completed its relentless journey across the Atlantic Ocean Thursday morning, dropping to a Category 2 storm and moving into the coasts of North and South Carolina. Outer bands of the storm, which at one point was a Category 4 hurricane, began to reach the coast early Thursday with maximum winds just above 100 mph.
Forecasters have had a very hard time predicting the timing and direction of Hurricane Florence, particularly after making contact with the Southeast coast. The forecast changed once again Thursday, with the fierce storm projected to move west inland rather than a previous expectation that it would meander southwest along the coast before slowly with winds and drenching rainfall.
The current projection as of midday Thursday is for the center of Florence to move slowly from North Carolina into South Carolina, then make a northwest turn as a tropical storm toward the Appalachian Mountains in western North Carolina before shifting to the northeast.
For the Columbus area, that means there should be no impact at all, with current forecasts projecting mostly sunny skies through the next week.
Columbus Parks & Recreation Director Hollie Browder said Wednesday afternoon that her office has not received a request from the American Red Cross to open any of the city’s super centers for storm evacuees. But they are prepared to do so if needed under an agreement the city has with the relief agency.
Bowden said most Columbus hotels have either waived or reduced pet fees for those fleeing the storm with their furry loved ones. He also noted that should a hotel not allow pets, the local PAWS Humane shelter on Milgen Road has agreed to shelter them there.