Let’s first start with the word “derecho” which many may not know is the official name of the lightning storm that hit our area, literally, on the evening of June 29th — a Friday night many of us in the Northern Virginia area will hardly ever forget!
The storm caused massive and widespread power outages to countless of homes and businesses not just in Virginia but as far West as Indiana and Ohio. Many of our own staff members and customers were deeply impacted by the lack of power as well as the intensity of the summer heat wave upon us. Some were hit extra hard with damage to their homes from fallen trees.
Others were without power AND without water! It was and has been quite a most unsettling time for many.
Saturday morning will go down in OTPR history as one of the *most* chaotic-yet-fulfilling days since we first began operations back in 2002. Before the derecho, life was already quite busy for us as we were preparing and booking fast for the upcoming 4th of July holiday.
Then the derecho hit, and it hit our customers and many local pet parents very hard.
Saturday morning began for both our resorts around 5:00 am as our General Managers began to assess the storm’s impact on their facilities. It was quickly learned that while our OTPR Dulles location made it through the storm with power intact, OTPR Springfield, however, did not.
Springfield had to run its full 30,000 sq ft facility on generator starting Friday, June 29 at 11 pm. Thankfully, full power was restored by Saturday morning.
Despite the brief impact of power, no inconvenience was felt by pet guests!
Lines Down, Service Up
Once we got past the power issues at both pet resort locations, the next challenge for us to address was our phone system. It was working fine at first; later it began working sporadically and eventually the main phone lines just went down, period. This of course impacted many callers who attempted to dial our main lines to ask for boarding or day camp assistance.
During this challenging time, our staff was able to communicate “creatively” between resorts using internal lines, runners and even social media where direct communication was established with numerous local pet parents via Twitter and Facebook.
Due to our lack of external phone service, both resorts experienced an extremely high volume of walk-ins, which we encouraged as much as we could to let local pet parents know they could and should simply show up without concern for having reservations or not. We tweeted constantly to inform locals with pets to walk in …
… and that’s *exactly* what happened!!
People came in drones with leashes in hand.
At Springfield, many folks were waiting in line for boarding; they all had a story to tell. Many asked if they could wait inside the lobby due to extreme heat outdoors.
At Dulles, a steady stream of walk-ins arrived minute after minute, from dawn to dusk.
Both resorts had to call in extra staff to work extended hours. Each location closed on Saturday at least 2-3 hours well beyond closing times and worked hard to accommodate local pet parents with boarding assistance. The daytime staff at both Springfield and Dulles closed on Saturday at least 2-3 hours well beyond our standard closing times and worked diligently to accommodate local pet parents with boarding assistance. In addition to already higher-than-usual 4th of July holiday boarding levels at both resorts, the derecho brought 150+ boarding guests on Saturday night alone!
In addition to boarding due to weather and heat conditions, some local pet parents came due to property damage to their homes; some had tree damages so needed temporary housing for pets beyond the storm and power outages.
And our own resorts had to deal with trees as well.
At Springfield, for example, on top of the elevated levels of pet care and extraordinarily high demand for boarding and day camp due to the derecho, our staff had to do some tree damage clean up around the property as well.
Major Kudos to our Staff!
About one-third of own pet care and front desk staff members were without power; some without water service. Despite their own personal hardships, many team members still showed up at work to care for the pets in our care on Saturday and well beyond the weekend and managed to keep smiles on their faces long after the massive crowds subsided.
Due to our area’s continued power outages, the influx of incoming pets to both of our resorts continued into Sunday, Monday and even Tuesday. The need for quality and available pet care caused by the unfortunate combination of exceedingly high temperatures and power outages was absolutely incredible; something we will certainly remember for years to come!
Grateful Pet Parents!
Clearly, many of our clients were thankful to our staff as well. We received many wonderful, supportive comments throughout the day, including but not limited to:
After the Derecho
Well, it’s been over a week now since the lightning storm hit our area, yet the influx of pets and walk-ins continues. Even though the frantic needs of the storm’s weekend have allayed, day camp — for example — at both locations is experiencing about a 20% increase higher than pre-storm levels. Pet parents, our General Managers report, have been afraid to leave pets at home while at work. Others still, sad to say, continue without power or are recovering from the storm’s hardship and are not ready to have their pets return home just yet.
In the end, we are so thankful to have been in position where we were able to help so many families and pet parents in a time of dire, real need. We had the opportunity, despite all the challenges we faced, to serve and provide loving care to countless of dogs and cats needing to cool off or enjoy safe shelter. We are grateful to have met so many new pet parents and provided support and assistance along the way.
From all of us at Olde Towne Pet Resort, we sincerely hope our entire OTPR community is now past the storm’s impact with both water and power fully restored to their homes. We thank you for allowing us to provide you with exceptional pet care and pet boarding service under extraordinary circumstances and look forward to continued “adventures” … preferably the non-storm kind (smile!) … in the near future and beyond!