The people of Hurricane, West Virginia, have been incredibly kind to our crews restoring power following icy storms that knocked out 97,000 Appalachian Power customers. Just one of many humbling examples is the generosity showed by the Wingate by Wyndham hotel.
The hotel opened in February last year. Six weeks later it shut down because of COVID-19 and, even after it reopened, the hotel has never been filled to capacity. That changed this month when 70 lineworkers and other personnel converged on the site, taking refuge in about 80 of the hotel’s 99 rooms as a base for restoration efforts in the area.
The hotel manager said people outside Hurricane might not appreciate just how severe the weather has been.
“I can’t even tell you how cold it is,” he said. “It’s frigid. It’s cold. It’s icy. It’s miserable. And that’s just me talking. I don’t think that compares to what the linemen are dealing with right now.”
As lineworkers began the slow and grueling process of bringing the power back on, the manager saw them returning each evening completely drained after a long day of work. He wanted to do something, so he offered to buy the team a pizza dinner – all 70 of them.
William Marcum, a line department supervisor with AEP Ohio, declined on behalf of the group but was eventually persuaded. Unfortunately, the hotel manager quickly ran into a common problem: like many area businesses, the nearby pizza joint was without power.
The manager improvised and headed to Walmart instead. He went with intentions of paying himself but returned with a huge dinnertime spread of cold cuts, drinks, desserts and other goodies – all courtesy a generous donation from the Walmart staff, who also wanted to show their appreciation.
“They had sandwiches, chips, the whole nine yards. It was great,” Marcum said.
Though the hotel manager was able to later accomplish his plan of treating them to pizza one night, he learned of a bigger problem for lineworkers. The restoration effort was not an easy one and it eventually became clear that AEP Ohio’s team would be needed longer than the scheduled seven-day deployment. But they hadn’t packed for a prolonged two-week stay.
So the manager decided to one-up his previous generosity by paying for dry cleaning for everyone.
Lineworkers’ flame-resistant clothing requires special care and couldn’t be washed in the hotel’s commercial-grade washers, so the manager had to send all of it – days of dirty clothing from the 70 linemen – to a nearby dry cleaner.
“They may have bit off a little more than they could chew,” he said with a laugh.
But the gesture was a home run.
“It was fantastic. We were past the time we were told to pack for so nobody had any clean clothes,” Marcum said. “It was the ultimate in rallying the team. It really got people pumped back up again.”
It’s two weeks later and work is wrapping up in Hurricane. The manager said the experience has been “totally unprecedented” for the hotel, and every single employee has played an important role in making sure things are running smoothly. It’s been a pleasant experience despite the unpleasantness of the emergency.
“The way it has played out has been an unexpected and interesting dynamic. Weird as it sounds, we’ve become a 99-room family,” he said. “The guests and staff are calling each other by their first names at breakfast and when they come back at night. That’s how close everyone has gotten. We can’t survive without the power, and have been more than happy to help.”