Fleeing Hurricane Florence? Here’s the latest on hotel rooms in York County.

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Scientists will deploy underwater gliders to track Hurricane Florence, collect measurements and determine if water temperatures might be causing the storm to weaken. The gliders are operated remotely.
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Scientists will deploy underwater gliders to track Hurricane Florence, collect measurements and determine if water temperatures might be causing the storm to weaken. The gliders are operated remotely.

York County has some rooms for evacuees fleeing Hurricane Florence, with potentially many more opening up by Wednesday.

York County has about 3,400 hotel rooms.

That’s significantly more than this time last year, said county visitor bureau director Billy Dunlap. Dunlap’s group has been in constant communication with local hotels, finding out about their availability.

“Right now, the hotels here aren’t getting a lot of evacuation calls,” Dunlap said Tuesday morning.

If the storm veers north, hotels could see guests coming from Charlotte, or from western South Carolina if the storm veers south.

Dunlap said he believes part of the reason York County hotels aren’t fielding more calls now is that York County itself remains in the projected path of the storm.

“I think that’s kind of keeping people away from here,” he said.

The hotel situation in York County will remain fluid heading into the weekend. If there were a run of booking requests now, some area hotels would have a hard time placing them.

Swaths of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Florence. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in coastal regions and will affect 1 million people.

A cross country competition at Winthrop University has some hotels booked full this weekend. Winthrop hosts a regional event later this fall, and more teams than typically would come are signed up to get a run on the course. Looming rain from Florence could lead to a change in the weekend event.

A decision on that is expected Wednesday. If the Winthrop event is canceled, it would mean more room for evacuees.

“That’s going to open those rooms back up,” Dunlap said. “But we’re not sure how many rooms.”

If outdoor events in Rock Hill, where sports tourism is a driving industry, are canceled, that can vary the hotel outlook considerably. Which is why the visitor bureau is encouraging people looking for rooms to contact hotels directly.

“We’re sending them straight to the hotels,” Dunlap said. “The situation is so fluid.”

Dunlap said many rooms west of York County are booked for the FEI World Equestrian Games this weekend in Mill Spring, N.C.

A more northern track for Florence, one threatening eastern parts of Charlotte with enough rain to stop outdoor events -- and open rooms here, could mean limited room availability in the region except for York County.

Bringing in evacuees as a storm makes landfall wouldn’t be unique to Hurricane Florence.

Heritage International Ministries and Conference Center near Fort Mill brought in more than 300 evacuees from Hilton Head in 2016, when Hurricane Matthew poured on their retirement facility. Last year the group returned, this time bringing more than 400 people who were fleeing from Hurricane Irma.

“They stayed for 11 days and became our friends,” Heritage general manager Erika Robinson said last year when guests returned. “Now nearly a year later, we are geared up, and our staff is ready to welcome them back. It feels like a family reunion.”

During both Matthew and Irma, numerous hotels in Rock Hill and other areas reported several days of no vacancy.

Charleston tourism leaders are telling people to head south to wait out the storm, Dunlap said, and Pigeon Forge, Tenn. is letting people know that area has rooms. With room in York County, and blocks of rooms potentially coming open here, Dunlap’s group will spread the word, too.

“We’re going to be doing the same thing,” he said. “We want to tell them there’s availability here, so come here.”

A list of York County hotels is available at visityorkcounty.com.

John Marks: jmarks@fortmilltimes.com; @JohnFMTimes
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