For tornado victims without a home, or at least a home without working utilities, finding a temporary place to stay became an immediate priority.
Hotels in Washington, East Peoria and Morton received an influx of displaced tornado victims Sunday.
The Best Western in Morton was ready for those who needed rooms after the storm. When power came back on in Morton the hotel opened the doors and sold out rooms Monday through Wednesday.
A complimentary dinner was offered to the guests and a call for donations was sent out, said general manager Matthew Nash.
Although Best Western is no longer sold out the hotel is still went into the weekend at 70 to 75 percent capacity. Nash said about 15 to 30 rooms could be long term situations due to houses being completely lost.
Nash said that this time of the year is usually the slowest for hotels in the surrounding area.
"I guess it's a blessing there is availability in the area for those that have been displaced," Nash said.
Donations those affected by the storms have been brought in by regular guests of the hotel, employees and the director of operations from Minneapolis.
At Stoney Creek Inn, prices for all rooms were dropped to $79 a night, clothing from its store was significantly discounted and its ban on pets was lifted. Steve Reed, general manager at Stoney Creek, said the Red Cross and private benefactors donated boxes of clothing, cases of bottled water and pizzas for dinner.
"For tonight and tomorrow night, we're all booked up," Reed said Wednesday. “Ever since Sunday we’ve been all booked up.”
Terri Gustafson, general manager at the Holiday Inn Express in East Peoria, said Sunday is a lower occupancy day for the hotel, which allowed families instant access to vacant rooms. A generous construction crew also pitched in to open up six extra rooms at the Holiday Inn, shrinking the ever-growing waiting list for a room.
The Sleep Inn & Suites, one of two Washington based hotels, opened up Tuesday afternoon once electricity was restored and the necessary staff became available. The hotel purchased refrigerators for individual rooms and contacted the school district to ensure that buses would stop there when school resumed. Despite the chaotic atmosphere, general manager Melissa Cantor has tried to formulate a plan to establish comfort for those staying longer.
“We’re opening conference rooms for more space,” Cantor said. “One of the ideas is for local entertainers to come in to make it more fun around the hotel for kids.”
As power returns to homes in Washington, people staying at the hotels are trickling back to their residences. Now the wait list is lengthening for those seeking residence for the next month. Stoney Creek has 12 units that are designed for stays of more than 30 days, but those were all accounted for within hours Sunday. Reed and other hotel managers will do what they can with the available rooms in the meantime.
“All we can do is get folks into bigger suites right now,” Gustafson said.