WASHINGTON -- On
Aug. 30, several hotel chains were working to gather news on the
condition of their hotels following Hurricane Katrinas onslaught
Packing winds of
100 mph or more, the killer hurricane cut a swath through
Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Georgia Aug. 29, as it
continued its campaign northward.
The impact in New
Orleans was severe, as the hurricane downed power and telephone
lines, while flooding as much as 80% of the city.
Through it all,
hotels in the area did their best to stay operational and provide
At the Country Inn
& Suites hotel on Magazine Street, employees typically welcome
and care for guests who visit New Orleans from around the country.
But on Aug. 30, the guests at the 155-room hotel were mostly the
families of the employees.
Katrina barreled down on the Big Easy, employees brought their
children, wives, husbands and other loved ones to Country Inn for
Katrina finally hit New Orleans on Aug. 29, about 100 people were
still at the hotel, including five guests.
Due to conditions
in New Orleans that included the loss of electrical power, downed
telephone lines and severe flooding, direct news from the hotels
The only available
news on conditions and damage came from the headquarters for the
hotel chains, which served as a clearinghouse of
Betsy Day, spokesperson for
Country Inn & Suites, a Carlson hotel brand, said she was in
contact with the Country Inn on sporadic basis, since the telephone
lines and power were off in much of the city.
Country Inn is one
of three Carlson Hotels in New Orleans. The other two, the Radisson
and the Park Plaza, were closed.
We do have an
electrical generator at our Country Inns & Suite hotel, but of
course we are using it sparingly, said Day, who works out of
Carlsons main office in Minneapolis.
The few times the
generator was on, hotel employees took the opportunity to power up
their wireless phones to report in with updates, Day
Overall, the hotel
sustained minor damage from the wind, said Day. They did not even
have windows broken. I believe thats because it is a five-story
hotel. The other hotels [in the city] that were hit harder were
much higher. So we are very thankful for that.
away, the 1,184-room Hyatt Regency New Orleans was also providing
shelter to an array of people including employees, their families,
the media and the citys mayor, Ray Nagin.
Most were situated
in a ballroom that was converted into a makeshift dormitory. A few
were in guest rooms.
The hotel had
sustained damaged in the storm, according to a statement from
general manager Michael Smith.
The severe winds,
some clocked as high as 140 mph, blew out the windows from several
hotel rooms, which likely suffered water and wind damage, a Hyatt
We are assessing
how to move forward with business, he said. The hotel will be
operational again, but we are assessing when and how.
International, meanwhile, was attempting to assess the damage -- if
any -- to its 16 hotels in the New Orleans area.
Choices vice president of corporate communications said she was
unable to touch base with many of our properties due to the
telephone circuits being down in the area. Were continuing to try
and make contact. Thankfully, we havent yet received any reports of
injuries to hotel staff or guests.
Madison said field
staffs were making hotel visits wherever possible. In most cases,
we dont yet have word on which properties will need to remain
closed for repairs for an extended stretch of time.
Madison did get
reports on properties in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, which
were also impacted by the hurricane.
Two hotels -- one
in Mobile [Alabama], and one in Helen [Georgia] -- have indicated
they will likely be closed for the next six months to make repairs,
she said. In Alabama, our properties in Mobile, Gulf Shores and
Orange Beach were evacuated. We have yet to receive any damage
reports for those properties.
said in Mississippi, a number of properties in Biloxi have closed
due to flood damage. Our properties in Hattiesburg also suffered
water damage and the loss of power and water.
chairman of Best Western International said there was little
information about the condition of some 36 Best Western hotels that
wound up in the crosshairs of Hurricane Katrina.
We are just not
able to contact many of them, McCrae said. There is no telephone.
There is not cell [phone] service. Theres no power.
Some hotels, he
said, had reported damage.
McCrae said he had
heard an unsubstantiated report that one Best Western hotel in the
New Orleans area had been completely destroyed.
We are very, very
concern for our hotel operators and their staff, their families and
their guests, he said.
To contact reporter
Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].