AS THE DEATH toll from Hurricane Michael reached 19 and thousands remained without food, water and power, Clearwater, Florida, hotel financier Ryan Dumas took action. He started a Facebook page to collect donations for the storm’s victims.
“I’m raising money to help for food, water, supplies, and lodging for all of the evacuees in the panhandle,” Dumas, a senior associate at GRP Capital, said in his quote at the top of the Facebook page. “I’m going to hand deliver items this week.”
Within three days he had raised $1,851 of a $2,000 goal from 20 contributors. By Tuesday he was looking for a rental trailer big enough to carry all the supplies he’d gathered, including gloves, chainsaws and other necessities. Dumas contributed a little more than $3,000 of his own money.
“I’ll be driving out there tomorrow to bring things to them,” Dumas said.
There is no shortage of need for the supplies.
“With Florence there were floods and no power, but there was no devastation like there was with this one,” he said.
Most of the donors are hoteliers. Zan Patel, who owns three hotels in Mansfield, Texas, was one of the contributors. He said he does not know anyone affected by the storm; he just wanted to help.
Patel said he hasn’t been through a disaster like Hurricane Michael. He even avoided the worst of Hurricane Harvey that hit Texas last year.
Approximately 2.5 million people were left without power after Hurricane Michael, according to Energy Manager Today. By Oct. 15 it had been restored to all but 241,000. Thousands were displaced in Florida and most of the deaths occurred in that state, though lives were lost in Georgia and the Carolinas as well.
In Panama City, where Mahesh “Mike” Shah weathered the historic storm in the Comfort Inn & Suites he owns, residents were waiting in long lines for water and food while helicopters airdropped supplies to remote areas around the city, according to CNN.com. Some people resorted to looting.
“This (storm) hit so hard and so fast that the different aspects of human nature are going to come out, and people are going to do anything to survive,” Panama City resident Christopher Donahue told CNN affiliate WEAR-TV.
To aid the recovery, Florida Gov. Rick Scott had the state’s insurance commissioner suspend certain insurance rules while activating others to meet the health and safety of residents. The emergency provisions included giving policy holders an additional 90 days to provide information to their insurance company. It also included prohibiting insurance companies from canceling or non-renewing policies on properties affected by the storm for 90 days, and freezing rate increases.
For hotels in surrounding states, however, business was booming. RAM Hotels Executive Vice President Mitesh “Matt” Patel had toured his properties in Alabama to assess the damage, finding little. The properties had been filled with evacuees right after the storm, but by Oct. 16 that had changed as recovery efforts were underway.
“We have insurance companies, utilities companies and journeymen staying with us,” Matt Patel said.
While it remains to be seen how Hurricane Michael will boost or damage the hotel industry, STR has released data on the impact of last month’s Hurricane Florence on hotels in North Carolina and its surrounding area.