HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - As Hurricane Irma races towards the U.S. coastline, many residents in harm's way are hitting the road and filling up Alabama hotel rooms.
Most rooms in South Alabama are completely sold out, meaning more and more coastal residents are driving farther north, including the Tennessee Valley.
This was supposed to be a relatively quiet weekend for the Homewood Suites in Twickenham, but now thanks to Irma, not so much.
The downtown Huntsville hotel has 20 new arrivals Thursday night, and 15 of those will walk through the doors, hoping to find refuge from the massive storm barreling through the tropics.
“They are filling up, yes,” says Vickie Thrower, the General Manager of Huntsville's Homewood Suites.
Thrower says the hotel has a few vacancies left Thursday night, and the rest of their rooms are sold out until next Wednesday.
Since Florida's Governor issued the evacuation notice, Thrower says their phone has been ringing non-stop. Many asking for a place to stay, and many more notifying staff they'll be late for check-in.
“We’ve had several people wanting rooms with two beds, we’re already out of those," says Thrower. “We’ve had several calls from people stuck in traffic, and anticipated getting here around 6 and 7 p.m., now they’re not getting here until 10 and 11 p.m."
Hilton has waived their cancellation fee for those who've had to alter vacation plans and promises to keep prices reasonable for those uprooted by Irma.
"We try not to price gouge people that are coming, we just use the same rate strategy we would have any other time," says Thrower.
She says, in some cases, they'll eliminate some fees for those who may not have budgeted for a mid-September evacuation.
"We give them the best rate we can give them," she says.
While it's certainly good for business, Vickie says, it's much more than that.
"When you’re traveling with children, leaving your home and not knowing you’re going to have a home when you get back, that’s always a concern," says Thrower.
Like the Huntsville community knows all too well, when Mother Nature is looming, and neighbors are in need, you answer the call.
"We just want to make sure they have the most comfortable stay, make sure we have plenty of food for them and just take good care of them," she says.
While there are still some hotel rooms available in the city of Huntsville, it's becoming increasingly harder for those traveling with pets to find a place to stay.
According to the Huntsville-Madison County Visitor's and Convention Bureau, only 10 hotels in the Rocket City are pet friendly. They include:
- Candlewood Suites in Research Park
- Ditto Landing Recreational Complex and Marina
- Extended Stay America Huntsville
- Four Points Hotel by Sheraton
- La Quinta Inn
- La Quinta Inn - Space Center
- La Quinta Inn Research Park
- Microtel Inn & Suites
- Monte Sano State Park
- The Westin Huntsville