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  • Many Southern Oregonians flee to coast for relief

    But accommodations have become increasingly hard to find, innkeepers warn
  • Some fled north, some south, most to the coast.
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  • Some fled north, some south, most to the coast.
    The grating, ubiquitous, unabating smoke swirling in the Rogue Valley prompted scores, if not hundreds, of people to flee in whatever direction they could find fresh air this week.
    "I am taking my family to the Bay Area to visit family and breathe some not-so-hazardous air," Medford resident Michael Forney said Thursday afternoon. "This smoke is literally killing us."
    Innkeepers on the south Oregon Coast welcomed the horde of refugees with open arms but are having to turn away those who lingered too long in reserving weekend escapes.
    "I was constantly answering phone calls, one after another, this morning," said Jodi Grundy at the Bandon Inn. "I had the same problem — an amazing problem — last night. I was constantly having to put people on hold. I had all four lines going at once."
    In virtually every case, the caller had a similar problem and need.
    "They can't breathe, their throat is sore and they need fresh air," Grundy said. "We're not completely booked, but we're very close."
    Normally, midweek reservations come incrementally, but over the past couple of days, it's been noticeably different, she said.
    "When you get this many reservations all at once, it's definitely noticeable," she said. "It's been a shot in the arm."
    Up until now, it's been a fairly typical summer, if not modestly slower than usual, for coastal hospitality outfits. But the next few weeks are almost certain to be pick-me-ups for the industry.
    "When I begin talking to people they talk about the smoke and trying to get away," said Lisa Bruce, whose family owns the Bandon Beach Motel. "When I tell people we're full for the rest of the week, they ask, 'What about next week? Tell me what's available.' I had one customer who had planned on going inland to vacation. They called to see what we had available so they could cancel that one."
    As early as Wednesday morning, Char Worthington saw the smoke's impact at Gold Beach Inn.
    "We've been swamped by people coming from Medford and Grants Pass; they're looking for rooms for their pets," Worthington said. "They're cranky and angry if we don't have what they need, not just for tonight but the weekend. We're not the first people they've tried and everybody has the same idea. They're just getting a bit frustrated about dealing with a situation they didn't want to deal with."
    Folks who intended to move on to an inland location found themselves hunkering down and staying another night or two in the fresh coastal air.
    "I had a man from Grants Pass telling me he couldn't see more than a foot in front of his face," said Logan Hockema of the Pacific Reef Inn. "I'm starting to hear more of that. When we filled up Wednesday and the day before, that was pretty surprising. Saturday and Sunday we're going to be darn-near full."
    Even for those unable to spend the night, the coast proved enticing for a day trip.
    "We had just come back from South Lake Tahoe and being in Grants Pass was so depressing," said Lila Wade, who journeyed to Bandon with husband Gabe and two young children.
    "We were trying to go to Monmouth, but couldn't get a dog sitter, so we headed over to the coast," she said. "My chest was hurting a little, the house felt heavy with smoke and it was emotionally suffocating. We're a healthy family and we were having to keep our 3-year-old and 11-month-old indoors. We just needed to escape and find some fresh air."
    Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness.
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