The Norman Transcript


June 9, 2013

Norman hotels rise to challenge after tornadoes

NORMAN — Since the initials hours after the F-5 tornado struck Moore on May 20, Norman’s county neighbor to the north, local lodging hosts faced a unique situation as rooms filled almost immediately.

The Hilton Garden Inn, located along the Interstate 35 frontage road south of the Robinson St. exit, was filled to capacity for 12 out of the first 14 days following the Moore tornado.

Deidre McClendon, the director of sales, said the property first filled with displaced families but by the second day, other overnight guests were occupying the hotel from insurance adjusters to non-governmental agency workers.

The Marriott-operated National Center for Employee Development, Norman’s largest property with nearly 1,000 rooms, has been averaging 80-percent occupancy since May 20. The hotel is located on Highway 9 East, south of the University of Oklahoma.

NCED has been housing American Red Cross workers and Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel as well as people who lost their homes. In some cases, FEMA representatives have met on site with families. One of the ballrooms has been housing supplies for the Red Cross.

“There are people from all over the place who are here,” Egan said. “They are all saying how great the people from Oklahoma are and how helpful the employees have been. They love our Oklahoma hospitality.”

Embassy Suites Conference Center and Hotel’s General Manager Michael Vance said that on May 20, the University North Park property in north Norman filled up with people who lost their homes. A conference began the following day.

“They (conference organizers) approached us to let us know they wanted to double up their rooms so that people who lost their homes would not have to find a place to stay again,” Vance said.

The organizers and staff then embarked on the arduous task of figuring out which attendees would stay in which rooms to make room for everyone.

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