The Extraordinary Efforts Taken to Evacuate for Hurricane Irma
In times of strife, it’s amazing to see how people can come together to help each other.
As Hurricane Irma, the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic, started to bear down on the Caribbean earlier this week, authorities and travel companies were doing their best to help people — and even animals — in the storm’s path.
The Category 4 storm, recently downgraded from a Category 5, is already affecting Florida’s most southern tip and eastern coastline. Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Monday, announcing evacuations within Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Monroe County, Collier County and Palm Beach County, according to TIME.
The storm, which already caused incredible damage in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands, is also expected to affect areas of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
In response, airlines like JetBlue and Delta, hospitality companies like Airbnb, and even private companies were reaching out to help keep people safe.
Airlines added flights out of Florida and the Caribbean.
American Airlines added 16 flights to their schedule from Miami in order to help evacuate out of Irma’s path, for a total of 3,600 additional seats. Delta added 2,000 seats from seven airports in Irma's path, and United, JetBlue and Southwest also added flights, from Florida and Puerto Rico.
... and capped prices.
A Delta flight raced the hurricane out of Puerto Rico.
Delta Flight 431 from New York City beat the clock by less than an hour when it landed in San Juan on Wednesday.
Just as Hurricane Irma was bearing down on Puerto Rico’s coast, return flight 302 did a quick turn around, and took off from San Juan, narrowly escaping the storm.
Key West’s Hemingway Home Museum is housing 10 humans and 54 cats during the storm
Dubbed “hurricane proof,” the museum has thick, limestone walls and high positioning, and will be sheltering dozens of cats and 10 staff members for the duration of the storm: “Cats know naturally when to go. As soon as the barometric pressure drops, they come in,” museum director Dave Gonazlez told the Houston Chronicle. “They know before humans do when it's time to get in.”
The cats live in the former home of author Ernest Hemingway, and the staff have stocked up on food, water and supplies for Irma’s arrival.
Airbnb has enacted its emergency response program.
Airbnb is encouraging its hosts to open their doors to evacuees at no cost in the wake of the storm — as part of their emergency response program — until September 28.
The program would be available in northern Florida and southern Georgia to evacuees, as well as relief workers and volunteers who may come in after the storm to help with the recovery. According to Naples News, Airbnb hosts in the following Florida and Georgia counties are eligible to participate in the program and list their homes for free.
In Florida: Bay County, Escambia County, Leon County, Okaloosa County, Santa Rosa County, Walton County, Holmes County, Washington County, Calhoun County, Franklin County, Jackson County, Liberty County, Gadsden County, Gulf County, Wakulla County, Madison County, Jefferson County, Taylor County. In Georgia: Decatur County, Grady County, Thomas County.
Hosts can opt-in for this program by visiting the Disaster Response page and clicking “I can offer my space for free.”
Southwest scheduled a flight to rescue abandoned pets.
In partnership with the non-profit Operation Keep Pets Alive and the Helen Woodward Animal Center, Southwest flew 64 rescued dogs, cats, and stuff to care for the animals from Houston to San Diego in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
The animals are being kept at the Helen Woodward Animal Center until they are adopted. The animals were already in shelters when the hurricane hit, according to Fortune.
People evacuated the “gypsy chickens” of Key West.
The free-roaming “gypsy chickens” of Key West had nowhere to go in preparation for Irma, so some good Samaritans known as Key West Finest on Facebook decided to take them along as evacuees. The chickens didn’t mind being wrapped up, according to one commenter, Lacey Bacon-Stonebraker, who herself owns 50 chickens and three roosters. According to Bacon-Stonebraker, flattening their wings and carrying them is the proper way to transport chickens.
Local animal shelters are working to evacuate animals in Florida.
Evacuation efforts are not being taken lightly in this storm. Schools and government have been closed and hospitals are evacuated in preparation. According to the Miami Herald, Monroe County Emergency Management Director Martin Senterfitt said, “the sooner people leave, the better.”
Even the Key West animal shelter is evacuating 89 cats, 24 dogs, 23 rabbits, eight turtles, a chicken and a parakeet. In Marathon, 43 cats, eight dogs, four turtles and three iguanas are leaving, according to the Miami Herald.
Private jet companies are stepping in to help evacuees.
With major airlines totally booked, private jet service Air Charter Service, among others, is stepping in.
“Our Miami, New York and Toronto offices have all been busy booking charters to evacuate people from regions facing the imminent threat of the high winds all week, from Caribbean islands, as well as Florida itself,” Richard Thompson, president of ACS Americas, said in a statement. This service is mostly available to the wealthier evacuees in the area, but the company is working hard to keep up with the demand nonetheless.
Royal Caribbean used a ship to evacuate employees.
Royal Caribbean employees and their families were able to sail to calmer seas on the company’s own cruise liner earlier this week. The ship, Enchantment of the Seas, became available after the hurricane forced a cruise cancelation, so the company offered it up as an evacuation option instead. Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez told CNNMoney that the ship will depart at noon on Friday and will return when the port of Miami is reopened.