Hotels stay busy with stranded travelers
By RANDY GONZALES
Snow plow drivers weren't the only ones busy Wednesday and Thursday, as a winter storm dumped 16-plus inches of snow on Hays.
Front desk clerks at local motels were hopping, too.
"The phone's been ringing nonstop," said Jackie Reynolds at midday Thursday. Reynolds, the assistant manager at Days Inn, 3205 Vine, worked all day Wednesday, then came back to work Thursday morning. She planned to stay overnight, as other employees had done Wednesday night.
"We're not sure if some of our housekeepers are going to make it in in the morning, so we're going to have to have enough staff here to service the hotel," Reynolds said.
Mitchell Sahlfeld, front desk clerk at Baymont Inn and Suites, 3801 Vine, said at midday nine rooms out of approximately 100 were still left.
With the closure of Interstate 70, "we've been getting more calls about availability," he said. "People (are) getting stuck here because they were going to check out, but can't go where they want to."
That was the case, too, at Motel 6, 3404 Vine.
"We've had a lot of people decide to stay over (Thursday)," said front desk clerk Paige Eickhoff. "We have more people coming off interstate, trying to get in."
Larry Kriegschauser, front desk clerk at America's Best Value Inn, 2524 Vine, said guests who were going to check out have instead "planted themselves firmly."
No tow trucks needed
With the city of Hays' emergency traffic plan enacted Tuesday afternoon, vehicles parked on emergency snow routes were at risk of being towed at owner's expense.
Officers of the Hays Police Department made sure that wasn't necessary. They checked the snow routes and made attempts to find vehicle owners, to avoid a tow charge.
"That's our normal procedure," said Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler. "Those cars that aren't moved off the route already, we try to make contact with those folks, get them moved off there.
"We were able to do this without towing any vehicles off the emergency snow routes. That says a lot about our community."
The show must go on
The winter storm changed the schedule for state high school wrestling tournaments at three locations in the state -- including Hays -- but the season finale still will be this weekend.
Instead of a morning start today, the Class 3-2-1A tournament at Fort Hays State University's Gross Memorial Coliseum was scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Also scheduled to start at that time was the Class 4A tourney in Salina and the Class 5A and 6A tournaments in Wichita. On Saturday, the action resumes at 9 a.m. at each location, with the finals conducting simultaneously at 2:30 p.m.
What to do
To say preparing for this year's Class 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament was different would be an understatement. Many teams, coaches and fans made their way to Hays on Wednesday in anticipation of the storm. They then were left to find ways to pass the time.
Thomas More Prep-Marian High School saved the day for many teams, opening up its gym for workouts and practice for the teams stranded in Hays.
"There's a lot of teams working out there," said Hoxie coach Mike Porsch. "Hays has done a good job of keeping the main roads open," which allowed the teams to get to TMP on Hall Street, as well as to restaurants along Vine Street.
Mike Rogers, father to two Smith Center wrestlers, Clint and Cale, made his way to Hays on Wednesday night, not wanting to miss the first time two of his sons were in the state tournament at the same time. But he found there was little to do while waiting for the tournament to start Friday. The Mall at Hays closed early Wednesday and remained closed through the day Thursday. A walk around Walmart SuperCenter didn't last long either, Rogers said.
"It'll be a different experience from what we've had," Rogers said, noting the schedule change in the event.
"It isn't the most desirable thing, but you gotta do what you gotta do," Porsch said.
Fort Hays State University, which called off classes Thursday due to the winter storm, is closed again today. Nearly every school in northwest Kansas was closed Thursday, and most remained closed again today.