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Houston Hotels Jam Packed: Emergency Workers,
Evacuees Crave for Air Conditioning
By Jenalia Moreno, Houston ChronicleMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

September 24, 2008 - There's no room at the inn.

East End resident Elizabeth Galvan and her two asthmatic sons struggled to find a hotel room after Hurricane Ike knocked out their apartment's electricity.

Galvan, her husband and sons stayed at a church, then at a relative's home and finally a hotel room in Victoria -- the only lodging they could find. A week later, the family found shelter at a Holiday Inn Express near the George R. Brown Convention Center.

"We want to go home," Galvan said as she sat in the hotel's breakfast room Monday studying for her GED. "It was just so hot."

With emergency workers, volunteers and insurance adjustors filling many of the city's accommodations, some powerless Houstonians are scouring the city to find an air-conditioned place to sleep.

Houston-area hotels are probably at 95 percent capacity, Joan Johnson, president of the Hotel & Lodging Association of Greater Houston, said Monday. Three Houston hotels are shuttered because of damages sustained during the storm, she said.

Searches on three travel sites Tuesday didn't turn up much help for an overnight stay. Two found the same pair of vacancies -- one was plagued by poor user reviews, the other quoted $274 a night. A third came up with nothing.

"You can't find a hotel at all," said Galvan, whose older son returned to school Tuesday. "We'll just find a way. We'll survive."

She was pleased to find out FEMA footed the bill for four nights at the Holiday Inn Express, and she hoped the agency would pay for the three nights she spent at the Victoria hotel. On Tuesday morning, she and her son packed up their belongings and sought relatives who might have power and space for the family.

At the Comfort Inn on the Katy Freeway near T.C. Jester, Reba Bosley and her relatives packed her belongings into her vehicle after staying one night. Her apartment doesn't have power, and neither does her cousin's home.

"I just needed one night to be able to be cool and relax and sit back," said Bosley, who lives in the Memorial area with her mother. "Hopefully, I might have power."

Her mother drove across the city and searched for a room for two hours Saturday with no success. Then, a friend walked into the Comfort Inn on Sunday just as another guest canceled a reservation and secured a room for Bosley. She shared the room with her mother, young nephew, cousin and his wife.

Construction workers' vehicles were parked in front of the hotel, where Bosley spent the night relaxing and watching television.

At the Downtowner Inn off the Eastex Freeway, three people stopped by Monday afternoon in search of rooms and were turned away.

"People keep calling for rooms," said Tanvang Pandya, who works the hotel's front desk. "I can't even count how many calls because every five minutes people are calling."

He said the hotel was filled by electric company workers and evacuees.

"Some people get power and check out and some new customers check in," said Pandya, whose hotel also sustained some hurricane damage and lost power for two days after Ike came ashore Sept. 13.


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