Thursday, July 05, 2012
Area hotels provide relief from power outages on holiday
Many residents still without power did their best to celebrate the holidays while staying at nearby hotels.
Photos by Erica Yoon | The Roanoke Times
Rick Hensley, Elliott Agnor's stepdad, wraps the $16 grill bought at Kroger with aluminum foil as Agnor checks on the coal. Agnor's fiancee Ashley Allen and her daughter, Alyssa, 8, wait in the background as they try to grill some hamburger's out of Agnor's neighbors' work truck in the parking lot of Ramada Inn off of 1927 Franklin Road Southwest in Roanoke. The family celebrated the Fourth of July at the hotel because their power was still out at their home.
Elliott Agnor (left) checks the charcoal in his grill as his neighbor Brandon Hyland and stepfather, Rick Hensley, watch.
Leslie Matney pets her dog, Gus, inside her hotel room as her mother, Lynne Fields, 79, sits on a bed. The two checked into the Ramada Inn on Franklin Road Southwest in Roanoke.
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In today's paper
Ashley Allen and Elliott Agnor's plans for a beach vacation have been postponed indefinitely.
The couple planned to head to the shore later this month with Allen's 8-year-old daughter, Alyssa. Instead, the threesome found themselves "vacationing" in a Roanoke hotel a few miles from their second-story, Cave Spring apartment, spending their summer getaway budget on lodging and food during the region's extended power outage.
"We're having fun, we're going to make it worthwhile," Agnor said Wednesday. "We might as well."
They were poolside during the heat of the noon sun at the Ramada Inn on Franklin Road watching Alyssa jump into the cool water along with a dozen other children. By the evening, eight hamburgers were sizzling on a newly purchased, 16-inch grill for a traditional Independence Day cookout. Hot dogs and steaks were waiting to be cooked, and the stress of five days without power was temporarily lifted.
After all, Agnor knew the hotel was a prime location for Roanoke's annual fireworks display.
"My grandparents used to come and stay here for the fireworks," he said. "It's the best view you can get."
The Ramada, which never lost power and has been sold out since Saturday, was a haven for other families, too, as people turned from the woes of sweltering, dark homes and spoiled food to embracing a much-needed holiday. American tradition took over with red, white and blue attire as people appreciated the generosity of others and the luxury of air conditioning.
"I just can't say enough what a good civic partner this hotel has been," said Leslie Matney. "They really stepped up to the plate and were helpful, compassionate and made everyone feel at home."
Matney, whose South Roanoke home lost power Friday, said she was desperate to find a room Saturday morning when she became concerned about the wellbeing of her two older dogs and her 79-year-old mother.
"Oh, it felt good," Lynne Fields, Matney's mother, said of walking into her cool room for the first time. "We were sitting in here with the two dogs and just taking it in, it felt so good."
That the hotel allows pets was a major benefit to many of the occupants looking to not only keep the young, old and medically fragile safe, but also furry members of the family. Staying with Agnor and Allen are a kitten and a dog.
While eager to find a reason for cheer, the power outages are taking a toll on families. And the financial burden is among the most obvious.
Allen said they likely lost $500 worth of food.
They salvaged some food in the first days, using a the hotel room microwave to cook a 16ounce sirloin that had been in their freezer and fixing frozen, prepackaged meals.
Still, they estimated they spent about $100 on snacks for their cooler that they have kept filled with ice from the hotel's ice machine. And, the hotel has cost $59.95 on weekend nights and $49.95 on weeknights.
Others said they were only able to afford the hotel accommodations because of the generosity of family.
Lori Walters said her mother and three sisters sent $500 that allowed her family, including her 8-month-old granddaughter, to afford the hotel. They checked in Monday after her daughter had to send the infant to spend the night with friends in order to keep her cool.
Amanda Dooley's family of five packed into a room for two nights because her children's great-grandmother offered to pay the bill.
The family, with three children younger than 10, had spent two nights already at the Roanoke Civic Center shelter and a night with her aunt. She said she doesn't know what the plan will be today if the electricity at their southwest Roanoke home is still off.
"It's just terrible," she said. "I feel sick."
Dooley's two girls joined hands with Alyssa, forming a circle and singing "Ring Around the Rosie" in the hotel's parking lot. They laughed, and Dooley shook her head slightly motioning to the children.
"But we're here, and I'm trying to keep them occupied and let them have fun at the pool," she said. "We thought it was going to be a worse Fourth than this. Thank God it is not."