Ice brings boost, losses to businesses

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

COVINGTON -- The ice and snow are slowly melting, and local businesses are regrouping. For some, the storm meant loss of revenue, while other saw a boost. And some employees spent several nights away from home in order to serve their customers.

Motorists stranded due to the closure of I-20 descended on Hampton Inn in Conyers on Monday evening, reported General Manager Susan Crowell.

"We ended up with about 59 rooms, a little more than we anticipated. We had cancellations so the walk-ins offset that in a positive way. The big impact was that nothing was open. The only business open where people could eat was Waffle House on (Highway) 138. Walmart closed at 4 p.m."

Hampton Inn staff cooked 60 batches of chocolate chip cookies and handed out snack bags.

"Everybody was very lighthearted," Crowell said. "They were happy to come to a place where they could feel comfortable and warm. It was the night of the college football national championship game and everybody enjoyed sitting in the lobby watching the game."

Despite the snacks, guests were ravenous by morning and ate up all the food on the breakfast bar.

"They ate all our bacon, all our sausage patties, all our eggs, yogurt and bananas," Crowell said.

Some of the guests remained until Wednesday. A few Hampton Inn employees also stayed over several nights so they could be at work to serve the guests, Crowell said.

Holiday Inn Express also saw an uptick in overnight guests due to the interstate closure. Even some locals who were afraid of losing electricity checked in, said Front Desk Associate Debra Steele.

Fortunately, nearby Domino's Pizza was open and making limited delivery runs and Holiday Inn served breakfast.

Employees with Covington Manor Nursing Home also stayed several nights in a row, sleeping on furniture in the front lobby, said Director C.L. Johnson, who was able to pick up some employees in his van equipped with snow chains. Fortunately, they never lost power and there was plenty of food in stock.

Other businesses didn't fare so well. Papa John's Pizza in Covington ordered extra supplies due to Monday's football game, expecting lots of folks would order in. But the store was closed Monday and Tuesday.

"I've had to throw away a lot of stuff this week," said Manager Mario Rodriguez, who said he hopes this weekend's NFL Divisional Playoffs will help him make up the loss.

Hard Luck Cafe in Covington also ordered extra stock in preparation for Monday's game, including 10 additional cases of wings, but had to shut down through Tuesday because of inclement weather.

"I think it's going to work out. I talked to my supplier and if I have a problem with it going bad, they're going to make it good," said owner Randy Durand. "It's not bad yet, because it's stayed in the freezer. ... I get it after it's been processed the day before so it comes in fresh."

Schedules were also disrupted at local hospitals.

"We did have a few elective procedures rescheduled from Monday to Tuesday, but we are back on track," said Linda Moseley, director of marketing and business development at Newton Medical Center.

Darlene Owenby was scheduled to have surgery at Rockdale Medical Center on Monday, but received a call at about 11:30 p.m. Sunday night saying the procedure was canceled. She'll have to wait another two weeks for the operation.

"It's not life-threatening or anything like that. I'm not in pain ... I'm glad under the circumstances they canceled it," she said.

In at least one instance, the chaos of the storm brought a community together. Alonzo Hill, a resident of Lover's Lane in Newton County, reported that he and about 10 of his neighbors braved frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall Sunday evening to assist stranded motorists struggling to get up and down a hill in their neighborhood. The residents worked from about 8:30 p.m. until close to midnight, in a couple of cases even offering rides on an ATV and a place for the motorists to park their cars overnight.

"It was not a Republican versus Democrat, black versus white issue. All of us were together doing it. There was no color or political affiliation. It was about people caring for people," Hill said. "If we start out in a community working together and one community attaches to another community, how much more harmony could we bring the citizens of Rockdale and Newton counties?"