Floridians flee Hurricane Dorian to Tuscaloosa


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — For Ayanna Higginbotham, her son Derrick, and friend Cornelius Gaines, it’s been a long road.

“You can’t describe it,” said Gaines.

Much of the Atlantic Coast has felt the effects of Hurricane Dorian, including the trio’s hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. With parts of the state experiencing severe flooding, they can’t even imagine what their homes look like now.

“It feels very devastating,” said Derrick Higginbotham. “It’s basically worrying about having no place to call home.”

“It has been challenging but thank God we are safe!” said Ayanna Higginbotham.

They’re safe because last week they packed up their car and fled Florida. They’ve all lived through hurricanes before and opted to not take any chances this time.

“So I was like where do we go?” said Ayanna Higginbotham. “Where do we go? And honestly, I just know God led us here.”

“Here” is the Centerstone Inn and Suites in Tuscaloosa, which is where they have stayed since last Friday.

The hotel’s general manager, Huey Harris, tells CBS 42 that initially he charged the three a reduced rate. But, for the past few days, they’ve been staying free of charge.

A complete stranger — helping others in their time of need.

“We may not be able to help the whole world or all the people in Florida, but we want to help somebody,” said Harris.

For Ayanna, Derrick, and Corneilius, there’s a lot of uncertainty. They don’t know what to expect when they return to Florida, but they’re grateful to be together and safe in Tuscaloosa.

“Just to come here and not worry and stress about [the damage caused by Hurricane Dorian], it helps,” said Gaines.

Harris tells CBS 42 that he is prepared to host 12 families displaced by Hurricane Dorian at his hotel. If you know of anyone in need of shelter, you may contact the hotel directly here.

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