One Hotel Employee Worked 32 Straight Hours Taking Care of Guests During Tropical Storm Imelda

My 16 year old dog died early last year, and my wife and I adopted two older dogs that had been Hurricane Harvey rescues. They had bounced around to different shelters over a period of months after the family they lived with lost their home in the storms, moved in with relatives, and couldn’t keep them. My wife and I have tried to give them consistency above all else, and after six months or so they were willing to be in separate rooms from each other. That was a huge step.

These two dogs are a regular reminder of the human toll of that storm, which affected so many people mere hours from our family in Austin. Summer Hull (“Mommy Points”) spent days gathering supplies and making sure people in her neighborhood had what they needed, even as she suffered real damage to her own home.

It’s the things that people do for each other when disaster hits that’s most meaningful, and in the moment, long before government programs decamp. It’s people like Satchel Smith, who works at the Homewood Suites in Beaumont, Texas, who make a real difference in people’s lives.

He had just shown up to work at 3 p.m. when Tropical Storm Imelda hit.

In fact, he was the only employee on property. The hotel was cut off from the rest of the area with “the access road…underwater and [freeway] shut down due to flooding.” People couldn’t get in or out. Other staff couldn’t or wouldn’t make it in to work, but he stayed. And he worked 32 straight hours taking care of guests.

He normally works the desk but “he was now the hotel’s chef, maintenance man, room service attendant and any other vacant position that needed filling, even when his experience was lacking.”

He had “never worked in a kitchen,” he says, “I’m not really a good cook.” But he cooked anyway. One guest helped him serve breakfast. Others helped him with dinner (“a simple chicken pasta with garlic bread”).

And with their own needs taken care of, guests “braved the flood to distribute food and water to stalled truckers” across Interstate 10.

He showed up on Wednesday, and another employee finally arrived on Friday. He brought her up to speed and… took a nap.

Credit: Homewood Suites, Beaumont Texas

Satchel Smith lost one car during Hurricane Harvey, and lost his current car in this storm, but still says “everything happens for a reason.”

I guess the lesson is that if a storm is going to hit, you want to be staying at at the Homewood Suites in Beaumont, Texas – or that people can really come together when it matters most and deliver for each other.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It’s relatively common in some countries for people to works months straight. I once had a bellman who worked 24 hours a day, sleeping periodically duering the night, getting shower and meal breaks. But he loved it because he would go home for a month at a time.

  2. Unfortunately disruptions such as this will become much prevalent due to climate change. Would be nice if this blog addressed such impacts and mitigation in a serious fashion…

  3. You take in senior rescue you can’t be so bad after all.
    As for Satchel, yes..Hilton should buy him a new car.

  4. I think the cost of the PR he generated (I’ve read this on lots of sources) would have cost Hilton a lot more – do hope they step up!

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