After the storm

Residents without power look for ways to beat the heat

2012-07-25T19:15:00Z 2012-07-26T07:31:04Z Residents without power look for ways to beat the heatBy Chas Reilly and Chelsea Schneider Kirk Times Staff Writers

Georgia McClellan's Merrillville home was warm Wednesday afternoon because it had been without power since early Tuesday, but her attitude stayed cool.

She stopped at Merrillville Town Hall to use the facility as a cooling center and talk to NIPSCO officials about restoration efforts in her neighborhood.

She said she has been "coping fine" without electricity. McClellan joked about jumping in a lake to stay cool and said "you have to have humor" to get through tough situations.

Residents dealing with power outages following Tuesday's storm could go to any number of cooling centers set up by municipalities across the region for relief.

But residents looking for hotel rooms likely struggled finding one close to home.

Hotels surveyed by The Times on Wednesday across Lake and Porter counties reported no vacancies. The National Softball Association Girls Fast Pitch World Series, coupled with the busy summer season, made hotel rooms hard, if not impossible, to find.

The tournament is scheduled to last through Sunday, though NIPSCO had hoped to restore power to most customers by Wednesday evening.

Even with the influx of visitors in Northwest Indiana, general managers said they usually sell out during the week in normal circumstances and most weekends during the busy season.

Hampton Inn and Suites in Munster had to turn a few people away who wanted to book hotel rooms because power was out at their homes, General Manager Tammi Kowalik said.

A worker told Kowalik that an elderly woman had called wanting a room. Staff told the woman that even though they couldn't provide a room, she could come and sit in the lobby to keep cool.

“With the big influx of NSA plus then we had a power outage, unfortunately due to that we were sold out,” Kowalik said.

Hilton Garden Inn in Merrillville also had to turn people away, though General Manager Matt Roig said he was unsure the reason they were requesting hotel rooms.

“I know in the past we have had people come stay here especially when it was in the 100s because air conditioners aren't working and they need some place to stay,” Roig said.

The Country Inn and Suites in Valparaiso has had a couple of cancellations but they fill right up, Assistant Manager Sallie Martinez said.

“A common questions is, 'What's going on in town? Why is everybody booked?'” Martinez said. “Well, we got some tournaments in town, and it's the summertime.”

As for McClellan in Merrillville, she said she had a fun experience trying to brew coffee in her home without electricity. She wasn't sure if she still had her old percolator, but McClellan eventually found it and had coffee.

"That brings back memories," McClellan said.

She said it appeared to be cooler outside than it was in her home Tuesday night, so she stayed on her porch for an extended period of time.

Her main concern about losing power is the chance of food spoiling in her refrigerator, McClellan said.

She was thankful NIPSCO officials established the station at Merrillville Town Hall to provide customers with information about the power restoration process and estimated restoration times.

"They never had this before in Merrillville," said McClellan, who has lived in the town for nearly 50 years.

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