Room in the casino: Mount Airy sheltered 150 travelers stranded by nor’easter

by jhang

Jackie Bewick of Gouldsboro, Wayne County was one of about 150 travelers who sought refuge Friday at Mt. Airy Casino Resort after getting stuck in traffic during the nor’easter that dropped nearly two feet of snow on areas of the Poconos. (Courtesy of Jackie Bewick)

Jackie Bewick was anxious to get home to her sick 2-year-old son Friday before the worst of the nor’easter hit Pennsylvania. Following an early dismissal, the fifth-grade teacher at Nazareth Area Intermediate School began the trip home to Gouldsboro, Wayne County.

More than nine hours later, and with about a gallon of gas left in her tank, a defeated Bewick pulled over at the Mount Airy Casino Resort in Monroe County. She was far from the only stranded traveler — the lobby was packed when she entered.

The resort quickly ran out of rooms but turned no one away. Employees handed out linens to approximately 150 people who had turned up and essentially converted the pool, spa, lobby and event centers into a shelter. It stayed that way through Saturday, while Interstates 80 and 380, Routes 611 and 390 and pretty much every local road remained impassable.

The resort never lost power thanks to multiple diesel-fueled generators. A skeleton staff that arrived Friday morning wound up working close to a 40-hour shift, covering for colleagues who couldn’t make it in. They gave stranded travelers free water bottles and provided a complimentary buffet Saturday morning.

The resort’s efforts did not go unnoticed. By Monday morning, Bewick’s Facebook post thanking Mount Airy had been shared nearly 7,000 times.

“Literally every single person was so kind, accommodating and polite,” Bewick said on the phone Monday, her 33rd birthday. “And I truly believe they saved lives — it was post-apocalyptic outside.”

Matthew Magda, Mount Airy’s vice president of operations, has worked at the casino since it opened in 2007. He’s experienced some serious snowfall, but Friday’s wind gusts, drifting and white-out conditions were like nothing he’s seen before.

As more and more people arrived in the lobby, the resort worked to figure out which guests with prior reservations couldn’t make it, and then gave those rooms to families with children and elderly couples.

When the sun came up Saturday and Route 611 remained one long parking lot, employees helped move vehicles to the side so the road could be plowed.

“I’m so proud of our staff, they provided customer service in its purest form,” an admittedly exhausted Magda said Monday. “I’m proud of our guests, too — there was no misconduct or theft.”

Bewick said her fellow guests went out of their way to share chargers, allowing her to keep in touch with her family throughout the night and continue to check the road conditions. She got some rest on a lounge chair by the indoor pool, but wound up grading papers and talking to other dazed guests at the resort’s Guy Fieri restaurant.

Later, still unable to sleep, Bewick decided she might as well make the most of her surroundings. She dropped $40 in a slot machine.

Bewick left around 1:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. She made it home without further incident.

“It was an ordeal, but the Mount Airy staff was incredible,” she said.

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312 Woodland Rd, Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania 18344
1-877-MTAIRY-1 or 1-877-682-4791