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Stranded travelers pack local hotels to the rafters

Posted: December 18, 2008 8:43 p.m.
Updated: December 18, 2008 4:59 a.m.
More than a dozen women sat in padded dining room chairs in the La Quinta Inn & Suites sporting brand-new pajama pants and slipper boots. Some had babies on their laps and others sipped coffee and ate fresh, hot waffles.

Men in the dining room clutched Styrofoam coffee cups while sporting yesterday's clothing.

Intermittent conversation pattered between tables as families excitedly told stories of being stranded away from their destinations on the other side of Tejon Pass or Escondido Summit.

Anxious patrons read newspapers and watched for TV news reports of the Interstate 5 or Highway 14 freeway closures, hoping to go home.

Sue Nevius, general manager of La Quinta Inn & Suites in Stevenson Ranch, said most or all of Santa Clarita Valley hotels were completely booked by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Nevius heard about the coming rush for hotel rooms earlier in the afternoon while out running errands.

At 3 p.m. the hotel had 58 of its 120 rooms open. By the time the sun set, the hotel was full and front-desk attendants were turning travelers away.

"At times we were 20 deep with people looking for rooms," Nevius said.

To complicate matters, an online reservation company overbooked and collected money from several people who thought they had a room, only to eventually learn there was no room at the inn.

"Turning people away was really hard, especially when you know you are turning people away into bad weather and bad roads," Nevius said.

After midnight, hotel employees accommodated a dozen more stranded travelers in the board room and on the floor of the cafeteria, Nevius said.

"I felt really bad because we had to wake them up at 5 a.m. to get ready for breakfast," she said.

The hotel also supplied free personal grooming bags to stranded travelers, including toothbrushes, a comb, deodorant and soaps.

Hotel guest Ed Be


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