East Coast Floridians seek out Tampa, St. Pete as a refuge during Hurrincane Matthew

Tampa, St. Pete serve as refuge for evacuees
Posted at 11:21 PM, Oct 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-07 23:21:04-04

Business and hotel owners around Tampa and St. Petersburg were already expecting a busy Columbus Day Weekend and evacuees finding refuge from Hurricane Matthew in the East Coast only made things even busier this week. 

A spokesperson for Visit Tampa tells ABC Action News hotels were already at a 80 percent occupancy rate before the storm hit the east cost. 

For hotel owners, that meant having to find ways to help accommodate people evacuating their homes. 

"We got a lot of calls a lot of guests asking if we accept animals," said Aaron Huffman, who co-owns the Cordova Inn, "a lot of airline companies inquiring if we had any rooms for their pilots and for their staff ." 

Most of the hotel's 32 rooms were already booked before the hurricane, but with cancelations from guests unable to travel to Florida because of the storm, Huffman was able to make room for those needing an escape. 

"A bad thing turned something good, you know, we were able to meet a lot of new guests and clients," he said, "it was nice to hear their stories and sympathize with them." 

Chris and Deborah White expected the challenge of booking a hotel room when they decided to leave their Daytona Beach home on Wednesday night. 

"I think it was a good decision that we weren't there having to go through all that listening to it worrying about it," said White. 

They were able to find a room and are contemplating staying the remainder of the weekend in St. Petersburg before returning to their home. 

"We've just been enjoying our time here and trying not to think about what we miss," said White. 

They aren't the only ones planning to extend their stay and businesses in the area don't seem to mind. 

"We've never had that many people just taking refuge over here," said Mark Georgieoff, who works at Hops and Props off 2nd Ave in St. Pete, "it was pretty nice."