A winter storm that blanketed the state with ice, causing power outages and water shortages, sent residents in the Richmond region to seek shelter, electricity and water outside of their homes during a pandemic that has kept many at home.
Dominion Energy, in a news release Monday evening, said that it expected to restore power to most customers no later than Tuesday. As of 5 p.m. Monday, more than 17,000 customers in the Richmond region and Tri-Cities, and fewer than 43,000 statewide, were still without power. The worst outages were reported in Chesterfield County, Dinwiddie County and Petersburg.
On Monday, Chesterfield, Richmond and Hopewell opened several libraries, which normally would have been closed for Presidents Day, for residents to warm up and charge their electronics. For most Richmond-area hotel owners, it was the first time since the coronavirus pandemic started nearly a year ago that their hotel properties were filled.
Rayn Rock, who lives in Goochland County and never lost power, drove to her mother and brother’s home in South Chesterfield on Monday morning after the answering machine hadn’t picked up, which she said was an indication their power was out.
“It’s cold at their house,” Rock said at Chesterfield’s Central Library on Lucy Corr Boulevard, one of two the county opened as warming and charging stations.
Her mother and brother, Ruth and Mark Edwards, sat reading in the library’s quiet room. Both still wore their winter coats, as well as face masks.
They had been to the library twice Monday, Rock said. After a visit that morning to warm up, they went home after lunch to find the power still out and returned to the library, where Rock said they expected to stay until it closed at 6 p.m.
Dominion provided a window of between 6 and 11 p.m. as to when their power would be restored, she said. Rock said they lost power Friday, but it was restored briefly on Saturday before going out again.
Richmond opened two of its public libraries from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday.
Dominion reported that more than 290,000 customers had lost power since 4 a.m. Saturday. By 5 p.m. Monday, crews had restored service to more than 85% of those customers.
To ensure the fastest response, Dominion asks that customers report their power outages. The fastest way to report or track an outage is using the Dominion Energy app or at DominionEnergy.com. Customers can also call (866) DOM-HELP ((866) 366-4357) to report an outage.
In Hopewell, residents flocked to Patrick Copeland Elementary School for bottled water after the city’s water provider, Virginia American Water company, lost power Sunday evening, leaving the city with only three to four hours’ worth of water.
To accommodate long lines, the distribution location was moved to the elementary school from Hopewell High School. When the operation began at 10 a.m. Monday, traffic was backed up more than a mile.
Distribution at 400 Westhill Road will resume Tuesday at 10 a.m. Those who cannot get to the distribution point should call (800) 452-6863 for help.
Power was restored to Virginia American Water around midday. At about noon, Assistant City Manager Charles Dane said that it would take several hours before pressure was restored and water began to flow to city residents. At 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dane said water service should be restored by the end of the day.
“Water pressure is starting to build,” Dane said in a phone call Monday evening. “We’re hopeful that in the next few hours, the system will get fully charged and ... barring any unforeseen issues, everyone should have running water and flushable commodes by this evening.”
Dane said that once the water supply is restored, city residents will still need to conserve water until the system is fully charged and to boil water before use. This boil water advisory will be in effect until further notice, Dane said, and will be in place for at least 48 hours.
The weekend’s bad weather caused several hotels in the Richmond region to be sold out on Saturday and Sunday nights and possibly on Monday night.
“People who were out of power were looking for rooms, but we didn’t have any rooms,” said Nick Patel, president of Kalyan Hospitality, a Henrico County-based hotel company that operates 21 hotels in Virginia, including five in the Richmond region.
Most of the rooms at Kalyan Hospitality’s area properties were occupied by crews who were brought in to help restore electricity to the Richmond region and beyond, he said.
Kalyan Hospitality’s hotels turned away “quite a bit of customers this weekend, I’m sure, but I can’t put a number on it because people book online or call or just show up,” he said.
Kalyan Hospitality has five locations in the Richmond region: Residence Inn by Marriott in Goochland; Comfort Suites in Colonial Heights; Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Petersburg; a Hampton Inn in Petersburg; and a Holiday Inn Express in Hopewell.
SMI Hotel Group’s four local properties “were much busier than what has become the usual,” said Robert C. Reed, the company’s vice president.
In fact, three of the company’s hotels — The Commonwealth and the Delta Hotels by Marriott properties in downtown Richmond and the Four Points by Sheraton Richmond in Chesterfield — were sold out Saturday night, he said. Part of that was to accommodate some hotel employees who had difficulty traveling to work because of the icy roads.
SMI Hotel’s Four Points by Sheraton Richmond Airport in Henrico experienced a power outage from about 4 p.m. Saturday to 11:30 a.m. Sunday, which affected occupancy there, Reed said.
“At the airport hotel, we were running on emergency generator power with limited services, and gave guests the option of staying or canceling with no penalty. Many chose to stay, but we could have sold the hotel out twice over had we the availability, based on the amount of reservation requests we had,” Reed said.
The majority of Shamin Hotel properties in Chesterfield and eastern Henrico were sold out over the weekend, while Shamin properties in western and northern Henrico saw about 75% occupancy levels, said Mark Yardis, the company’s vice president of operations.
Shamin is the Richmond region’s largest hotel operator, owning 38 hotel properties. It operates a total of 62 hotels in six states.
Yardis said most of the increase in hotel occupancy at Shamin properties closely matched the localized power outages, with the largest increase in the Colonial Heights and southern Chesterfield areas, followed by eastern Henrico.
“Mother Nature delivered a tough storm to the region, certainly,” he said. “Our hotel teams, too, have been stepping up to serve the valued guests who have chosen to move into hotels while restoration efforts continue.”
Some of Kalyan Hospitality’s area properties have sold out one night in the past for a sporting event, but Patel said it was the first time in nearly a year that all of his local properties were filled for two and possibly three nights in a row.