GR families booking hotel rooms, playing in pools to escape power outage

CUTLERVILLE, Mich. — For Sarah Smith, staying at home another day was out of the question. She and her family have no power.

Her two little boys haven’t been in school all week, and the generator they’ve been running doesn’t warm up the whole house.

“Oh it’s challenging,” Smith said while holding her 2-year-old son in her arms. “It’s really really hard trying to communicate to them why we can’t turn on different things in our house. (We) can’t get outside. The roads are pretty bad.”

However, Friday morning she braved the roads to take the family to the Holiday Inn in Cutlerville. She checked in for two nights and they headed straight to the pool.

“We just had to get out of our house,” Smith said. “Having this waterpark close, we couldn’t pass it up.”

Friday, thousands of homes and businesses were without power in the Grand Rapids area. The Smith family was one of them. Another was Teresa Weatherall Neal’s in-laws.

“They lost power yesterday,” said Weatherall Neal, superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools. “They called me this morning about 6:30 and said they didn’t have heat. It was extremely cold.”

Her father-in-law is ill, she said, and he’s currently receiving hospice care. However, to get him warm, she checked them into the Holiday Inn.

“It’s pretty dangerous out, especially for the elderly (and) especially for sick and young kids,” she said. GRPS opened two of its schools as warming centers. “It’s not a time to be without heat or electricity.”

The Holiday Inn was without both as well. It lost power for close to 18 hours and closed for one night, said general manager Vanessa Snelgrove Gould. However as soon as it returned, people affected by the outage started coming in.

“We really wanted people to know that they can come here [and] be warm,” Snelgrove Gould said. “We weren’t taking advantage of the situation.”

She said the hotel is booked to capacity for the next two days. If guests stay longer, due to the outage, they’ll receive a 15 percent discount from Sunday through Thursday.

For guests like Smith, she is just grateful to  be out of the house.

“We’re not going stir crazy  anymore,” Sarah laughed. “We’re here. Thank God for that.”

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