Thursday, November 23, 2017
Tampa Bay Weather

Lyft driver cruises for work before Irma to help passengers, and 'pay the bills'

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His family told him not to drive today, but Francisco Sierra said he'd pick up Lyft passengers for as long as he could.

"I haven't worked in my full-time job since Friday and need to pay the bills," said Sierra, 25 of St. Petersburg. "And there's people that need to get places that weren't as prepared for the hurricanes as they should be."

Sierra said Sunday morning had been fairly busy, picking up passengers and taking them to pick up last-minute supplies.

He took one couple to three stops along a 10-mile loop, looking to see what stores were still open and if they had groceries. He waited while they went inside and bought what they could.

Uber had announced a noon curfew for its local drivers Sunday, as well as Orlando and Sarasota. Uber users received a message saying the service would only operate until curfews go into place.

Lyft spokesman Campbell Matthews said the company was monitoring conditions in Tampa Bay and would eventually cease operations as it already had in South Florida, large cities in Charlotte County and Jacksonville.

"We will resume service when road conditions improve," Matthews said. "We are closely monitoring conditions and staying in communication with area drivers and city leaders."

Uber had suspended service in the Keys on Thursday evening, and in Miami, Fort Myers, Naples and parts of the Central Atlantic coast on Saturday. The company expected to follow curfews for Volusia and Bradford counties by Sunday evening.

"With mandatory evacuations currently taking place, we strongly advise our riders and driver-partners to make safety a priority as the storm approaches," the company said in a statement.

But Sierra said he was not concerned about his safety. He came to Florida from Puerto Rico, and he said his extended family was fine after the island's brush with Irma.

"I stocked up as best I could," he said. "I plan to drive until it gets really bad and I can't see no more or fares are starting to slow down. For me, it hasn't been as bad. I've been talking to people about the hurricane and how they should be preparing for it."

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