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Dealing with a hotel full of guests during a severe snowstorm and a power outage was not fun for anyone, says Denise Lomond.
The situation was made all the more frustrating for the manager of St. Christopher’s Hotel in Port aux Basques because she wasn’t there in person to help deal with it.
Lomond was in St. John’s for her son’s medical appointment this past weekend when a major weather system struck western Newfoundland. The high winds and persistent snow squalls resulted in whiteout conditions.
In the hotel, there were bowling and minor hockey teams and their families. Although some of the guests opted to brave the elements and left for home either Saturday or Sunday, many decided to wait out the nasty weather that continued into Monday.
To make things worse, the hotel was affected by widespread power outage that started Sunday morning and lasted until around 10:30 p.m. Sunday night.
Gord Davis, a coach with the group of bowlers from Corner Brook staying at the hotel, said the hotel was not prepared to handle the power outage.
“I would have given anything to be there myself so I could have talked to the people there in person,” Lomond said in an interview from St. John’s. “I know emotions can run high and even our staff can get frustrated in a situation like that. But, when there is no electricity, there’s only so much you can do.”
The hotel does not have a backup generator. Lomond said it would be quite expensive to have a generator system large enough to power the 83-room facility.
“It would have been nice to have had that this weekend, but it’s a big expense for something you might actually never need,” she said.
Lomond added the staff tried to do their best, including making cold sandwiches, muffins, water and juice freely available for guests when hot meals were an impossibility in the powerless kitchen. She said there was also a canister of hot water for anyone who wanted to make some tea.
She said those food items were no longer left out when power was restored in a part of town where most restaurants were located and people began migrating towards those paces in search of hot meals.
The hotel distributed all of its extra blankets, though Lomond noted there may not have been enough for everybody.
Hotel staff distributed battery-powered lights to each room, public washrooms and in stairwells. Lomond said staff complained kids kept taking some of these lights from their locations, which left some areas dark.
Davis felt hotel guests who had to stay longer than they had initially planned and also had to endure a lengthy power outage should be given some sort of break on their bill.
Lomond said it would up to the hotel owners to decide if there should be any reimbursement of the regular rates the guests were expected to pay.
“If you do it for one you would have to do it for everybody,” she said.
She took exception to the hotel being singled out for the unfortunate turn in the travel plans of the sports teams.
“I don’t think this should all be coming back on the hotel,” she said. “Knowing this storm was coming and that it might be a three- or four-day event, why weren’t these tournaments cancelled and put off until another date?”