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Power outages good for some businesses, not others

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

Friday's sudden and strong storms left a ripple effect throughout the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

Many area businesses had to be resourceful after losing power, and hotels had to turn on the "no vacancy" signs.

Floyd Baker's John Deere tractor was providing the power to his business, This N That Country Store, in Quicksburg.

"[The power] has been out since Friday night," Baker said Monday afternoon. "We have a portable generator hooked up to it [running] off the tractor.

"We put the generator on it shortly after the current went out. We put it on Friday night and it's been running ever since."

The store got crowded over the weekend as people without air conditioning came in to escape the heat.

"We were exceptionally busy Saturday," Baker said. "Everything was closed in Mt. Jackson."

The Sheetz Travel Center in Mt. Jackson was without power from about 9 p.m. Friday until midday Sunday, manager Rodney Bennett said. It couldn't open until about 2 or 3 p.m. Sunday, he said.

"We took our food to [the] Woodstock Sheetz at first, and then Sheetz had sent us a [refrigerated] truck that we set in our parking lot," Bennett said.

He said workers had to keep filling the truck with diesel to keep it running.

"We had no business for almost two days," Bennett said.

Area hotels were forced to turn would-be guests away, so great was the demand. A clerk at the Super 8 in Middletown said locals who were left without water or power came to stay, as well as people from Front Royal, Winchester and the Washington DC-Northern Virginia area.

All of the 119 rooms at the Holiday Inn Express in Woodstock are full, general manager K.P. Patel said. Some are occupied by firefighters battling the Massanutten Mountain blaze and by electric company employees.

"You get your normal traffic for this time of the year -- families vacationing, passing by and such, and a lot of walk ins," Patel said. "We had to turn away [guests]. For almost 150 miles either way, we couldn't find rooms for them."

He estimates "at least a couple of hundred" lodgers, both locally and from Northern Virginia who were without power, were turned away. Patel said his staff was trying to find them rooms as far away as Roanoke and Lexington.

The Holiday Inn Express also was a cooling center with a meeting room set up with chairs and tables, and some people did come in to escape the heat, he said.

"People were welcome to come in, watch TV," Patel said. "We would [still] allow people to come in to help them out due to the situation because they [don't] have power at home, and definitely being hot."

The timing of the power outages and the forest fire have combined to make the situation worse, Patel said, and added he was sorry not everyone could be accommodated.

The Days Inn in New Market also is full.

"There's a lot of people coming in because they didn't have electricity at their house, stuff like that," front desk clerk Jerome Orlando said. "Today, and actually all this week, Dominion Virginia Power booked [nearly] all of our rooms for their workers."

In Warren County, fire and rescue workers helped out residents needing to cool off.

"I know our folks gave out a lot of ice to folks that needed it," Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley said. "I think we cleaned out three fire companies' ice machines..."

The Winchester-Frederick County Economic Development Commission didn't hear of any hardships from businesses in their region, Executive Director Patrick Barker said Monday. Most have contingency plans in place for power outages, he said, and it would take a higher-level catastrophe to cause much upheaval since most have diesel backup.

Alex Bridges contributed to this report.

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