The week in review (copy) (copy)

Comcast offered free Wi-Fi internet hot spots in Charleston and Savannah during Hurricane Dorian. File

When Hurricane Dorian crawled through Charleston last week, power outages were inevitable. Luckily, some area residents who still had access to the internet could get free health care visits from their homes.

As disruptive storms become more frequent in South Carolina, residents should take note of the free services companies offer up during the turmoil. Comcast, for example, announced the Sunday before Dorian's arrival that it would open thousands of free Wi-Fi hotspots to customers and non-customers in Charleston and Savannah. 

A map is available of Comcast's hotspots at Xfinity.com/wifi. A spokesman for Comcast said it was still too soon to say how many people utilized the service during the storm.

Verizon, meanwhile, said it would provide unlimited calling, texting and data in coastal counties from the Monday before the storm until the Monday after.

“We know that people have a lot of work to do in order to prepare for a major hurricane, and this is one small thing we can do to ensure they are able to connect worry-free before, during and after the storm," said John Granby, a Verizon executive for the group's South area 

Meantime, anyone affected by Dorian would have no excuse to avoid the doctor as several companies offered up free teleconferencing options.

The Medical University of South Carolina and Roper St. Francis each said they would let patients use virtual health care for free, given that many health care offices were closed during the storm. 

Roper St. Francis said it would offer free virtual health care visits through the end of the hurricane. 

MUSC, too, said it would waive a $25 fee for its internet-based service.

The idea seemingly caught on in 2018 with Hurricane Florence, when hospitals and insurers appeared to fall over each other to market their free services.

The promotion appeared to work for MUSC during Florence: The hospital system said about a year ago people using its virtual care jumped from two or three a day to 26 people per day, and more than half of those patients were new to MUSC.

Members of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina could also access free telehealth around the clock through their health insurance provider.

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Beaufort Memorial Hospital also said it would allow free virtual doctor visits to Lowcountry residents until Sept. 15 with the code "Dorian."

Dorian driven

Charleston hurricane party-goers who opted to stay put and defy Gov. Henry McMaster's evacuation order may have had to stick close to home. The reason: ride-hailing services suspended their apps.

Uber encouraged passengers and drivers Aug. 30, as Dorian bore down on the Bahamas, to make safety a priority. In Charleston, Uber Eats and app-based ride services were suspended Thursday. Drivers for Uber and Lyft likely lost much of their business when local businesses closed up and after Charleston International Airport shut down Tuesday afternoon.

Uber also agreed in 2014 to cap "surge pricing" during natural disasters and local emergencies. South Carolina has laws against price gouging under such circumstances.

Both ride-hailing companies were also offering free rides to shelters in Charleston and other coastal areas where Dorian passed through.

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.