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Uber, Lyft provide free rides to shelters in Irma’s path


    People walked on to what is normally four feet of water in Old Tampa Bay today. Hurricane Irma and an unusual low tide pushed water out almost hundreds of yards.

Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. offered free rides to shelters near Tampa as Hurricane Irma barreled toward the Florida mainland.

The city’s Office of Emergency Management publicized the free Uber rides on its Twitter feed and mobile news-alert service. Lyft said its free rides also included trips to hospitals.

The offers served a vital need as Tampa Bay area residents got late notice that the monster storm had changed track on Saturday and was heading their way. It also provided a chance for Uber to burnish an image sullied by a macho culture that prompted the resignation of chief executive officer Travis Kalanick in June. Uber has also been criticized for using its so-called surge pricing in times of crisis.

Irma collided with the Florida Keys early today as a Category 4 storm, with top winds of 130 miles an hour, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It is expected to move north along Florida’s west coast.

Uber service was suspended in the Tampa Bay area after noon local time. A Lyft spokeswoman said that company has also suspended rides.

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