Homes without power flee to hotels for outage relief

Two days after a storm tore through Northwestern Indiana folks in St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties are still without power.

Frustrated homeowners took to local hotels seeking relief from the heat and humidity.

"Things started picking up Monday night, things were kind of slow, then last night I got a call about 10:00 saying we were sold out because of power outage," said Kayla Smith, desk manager at Comfort Suites on US-31 in South Bend.

Phones were also ringing off the hook north on IN-933 at the Suburban Extended Stay Hotel. There, Brandon Gill said he's been fielding phone calls from people who have already lost power and even folks who fear losing power in the future.

"It was the next day about mid-morning that things really started picking up," said Gill, "the time about people found out it could be Friday night they'd get their power back.

I&M reported 12,000 new outages in South Bend, 1,600 in Michigan and 2,000 in Elkhart since Tuesday night. Due to the extent of the storm damage, electric companies say it could be as late as midnight on Friday that power is restored.

So as things seem slow to improve for the thousands of South Bend residents, business is picking up for the hospitality industry.

According to Smith, "It is good for business, it's selling us out for the weekdays which is usually harder for hotels other than our regular business people that come in during the weekdays."

Hotels throughout St. Joseph and Elkhart County reported near-full capacity for Tuesday night, and were filling up once again for the next few nights. While some hotels had the problem of turning away guests due to full occupancy, the Waterford Estates Lodge on IN-933 was forced to turn away new guests when they too lost power.

The Waterford's general manager Thomas Snell lives in the hotel and described the heat as "stifling."

"We had no air conditioning. We had our emergency lights, they lasted the three hours that they're supposed to on their battery power." The Waterford had the foresight to put flashlights in the guest rooms, and then when the power went out they lined the hallways with glow sticks for safety reasons.

The Waterford's power was restored Wednesday morning and is open and ready to accept guests. For families and individuals who have not had hot showers, electricity and air conditioning a clean and cool room is a welcome treat.

" Well you know, you get a little impatient and you can't, I'm sure AEP or Indiana Michigan electrical are working as hard as they can," said Robert Smith, a South Bend resident who has been without power for days. Smith turned to the Suburban Extended Stay to power up and cool off for the afternoon.

"After shaving in the dark, showering in the dark it was time to call in the troops," said Smith adding, "and I wasn't as happy coming in as I am leaving"

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