Hotels in the Charleston area, where occupancy rates typically are 85% in this part of the tourism season, are focused on safety and security as visitors depart, or cancel their plans, at the South Carolina coast after the governor’s mandatory evacuation order on Monday. More than 25 conventions and groups stopped their meetings, and weekend events are finding different dates to return. “Once that hotel room night isn’t sold, we’ve lost it. We continue to work really hard to re-book those folks. That’s about the best we can do,” said Helen Hill, CEO of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Some hotels are adjusting their room cancelation policies for visitors who are still considering their arrival. At the Port of Charleston, Carnival has said the itinerary of an Ecstasy cruise that departs Sunday remains on schedule.
The message from Duke Energy is that Hurricane Florence could be a “life-changing event” that leaves 1 million to 3 million of its customers in North and South Carolina without power. Repairs could extend for weeks, and Duke Energy crews are expected to take at least the first day once the storm passes to gather damage estimates in order to allocate and deploy resources. “Extensive damage paired with ongoing high-winds and flooding will forever change the lives of some customers,” a company spokesman told the Greenville New. Residents are urged to fully charge their devices in advance and stock up on essential supplies since ATMs, gas stations and pharmacies cannot operate without power.
While Columbia Metropolitan Airport will remain open during Hurricane Florence, American Airlines announced it will halt flights to the airport starting Thursday night with an expectation to restart on Saturday. The carrier will let passengers rebook their flights and not a change fee or for bags or in-cabin pets. United Airlines will offer travel waivers for passengers who had travel plans to areas affected by the storm from Sept. 10-16. American and United Airlines are offering reduced-fare departures to help evacuation efforts.
In Florence, South Carolina, auto dealers are parking their luxury vehicles into service bays as a precaution from damage expected to arrive as Hurricane Florence advances. It’s one of the many examples of how businesses are waiting to see how much damage will occur across North and South Carolina, which combined account for an economy that surpasses Saudi Arabia. Mandatory evacuation orders led to Volvo indefinitely closing its factory north of Charleston is coordinating with its supply chain for when it’s time to resume production. The Port of Charleston will be closed until as long as Sunday. And while major fuel pipelines are in the projected path, analysts do not expect a major interruption to gasoline supply levels. And experts do point out that rebuilding a storm after disasters can lift local economies, especially in terms of construction hiring and at building supply retailers. “Typically, we see a stimulus effect that creates jobs and raises incomes for South Carolinians,” said USC research economist Joseph Von Nessen.
In anticipation of Hurricane Florence, the City of Myrtle Beach tweeted: “Due to the evacuation order from the governor’s office, businesses in Myrtle Beach are required to have operations and security completed by 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, September 12.” A city spokesman told the Myrtle Beach Sun News that the tweet is a request and that businesses are not required to close and a police spokesman acknowledged that even amid evacuation orders from state and local authorities people will still be permitted to enter and leave the area.