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Hotel Rooms: A Precious Commodity Along N.J. Coast


Another storm hits the same region today. This one is a nor'Easter, less dramatic than a hurricane, but severe nonetheless, and authorities are warning of possible flooding. They've ordered evacuations in some low lying neighborhoods. As NPR's Martin Kaste reports, this storm means more demand for one of the region's scarcest resources - hotel rooms.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Go on up. We got somebody coming through, bub.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Utility workers are stringing up the lines again in Brick Township. This is the Jersey Shore and these linesmen have come a long way, as becomes clear when Terry Frasier explains where they're from.

TERRY FRASIER: Lower part of Oliver, South Carolina, in South Carolina. A little part down near Charleston.

KASTE: Frasier's a chipper guy, even though he and his crew have been working 16-hour days for a week and sleeping in the back of a truck.

FRASIER: Yeah, it's like a cargo trailer. And they go in and build three bunks in it on each side. It sleeps thirty-six head.

KASTE: Comfy.

FRASIER: Yeah, exactly. You ain't got enough room to stretch out in it.

KASTE: To recovery workers like these, Shangri-La is a Hilton Garden Inn on Route 70.


ALEXIS SEIFERLING: This is Alexis, how can I help you?

KASTE: Where the main job at the front desk these days is letting people down easy.

SEIFERLING: I'm sorry, we are sold out tonight. They hung up. They hung up.

KASTE: Alexis Seiferling hates having to say no. So much so, that she and her colleagues slept in the office after the storm, to free up more rooms for evacuees - for people like Ellen Martocci and Joe Calella, who are now whiling away the afternoon on a sofa in the lounge. They say living in the hotel has slowed down their lives in an unexpected way.

JOE CALELLA: It kind of gives you a chance to talk more. You don't do this at your house, you know? It's like you're forced to live like a family, you know?

KASTE: It's a pretty homey scene, and even as they chat, newcomers keep coming in, hoping to join it. Jeff Baglin has the frazzled look of someone who's been checking hotels all day.

JEFF BAGLIN: I'm from Tampa, Florida. I came up here to help, you know, with the recovery and stuff and I got no place to stay tonight. So I'll just keep driving west until I find something.

KASTE: But if he drove south, he would eventually find a room in Atlantic City. It's open for business again, but the tourists are still scarce. So the big casino hotels are now hosting an increasing number of those out-of-state recovery workers - as well as anyone else who has no choice but to be on the Jersey Shore right now. Martin Kaste, NPR News, Atlantic City.

INSKEEP: And we will continue following that story right here on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

ERIC SCHNEIDER: And I'm Renée Montagne.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy. He has been focused on police and use of force since before the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and that coverage led to the creation of NPR's Criminal Justice Collaborative.
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