Virginia Hotel Casts Out 'Snow Refugees'

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A Virginia hotel cast out a group of professionals and other stranded commuters who sought refuge from last week's crippling snowstorm in the hotel lobby.

Police helped evict the group of 35-40 people from the Staybridge Suites hotel in McLean at midnight, when the snow had stopped falling but traffic was still at a standstill throughout Northern Virginia.

"I think the Staybridge is a disgrace. In a disaster, McLean residents should pull together – everyone should. Throwing out people was dangerous and heartless," Lisa Kaplan Gordon, a McLean resident who rescued a friend from the hotel tells neighborhood news source Patch.

Brian Pence, the hotel manager, maintains he had to put the safety of his guests ahead of those who were displaced by the snow.

"We had reports of people harassing our guests. Following them to their rooms. Offering money to sleep on the couch. I knew the safety and security of my guests were in jeopardy," says Pence.

All of the rooms at the hotel were booked by 6pm, leaving "snow refugees" to mill around on their laptops and make phone calls as they tried to make an escape plan for when the snow died down.

"I bet there were about 40 people in the lobby," says Jenna von Elling, a video producer who stopped in at the hotel after sitting in traffic so long she ate snow to quench her thirst. "People were asking for a room. People were calling on their cell phone to find out what to do."

"The managers at the hotel, they did not grasp what was going on outside their doors. They did not get it. The air was electric. People were very stressed because they were stranded. And that included people behind the desk," von Elling continues.

Shortly after 10pm, an announcement was made that everyone must leave by 11pm or the police would be called. When people were still in the lobby at 11:30pm, the hotel staff made another announcement. Just before midnight, two police showed up to kick everyone out.

"If I were the manager, I would have pulled out every cot and blanket I had, and would have kept the hot coffee coming. That's what 'hospitality' means. I will never put anyone up there, again," says Gordon. She describes power lines and trees were down throughout McLean, making the drive to pick up her stranded friend "frightening."

Raymond Goodrich, another stranded passenger, said it took him until 1:30am to reach home, just seven-and-a-half miles away. The drive usually takes him 20 minutes.

"I think compassion and common sense got all frozen in the snowstorm," says Goodrich.

Lt. McAllister of the McLean Police District tells Patch, "Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of factoring in circumstances."

"If the property owner wants someone to leave, we are compelled, duty-bound to make sure that happens," he adds.

Photo, comedy_nose, flickr
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