Heavy snow and rain from Winter Storm Nemo bore down on a brick Fountain Street apartment building, forcing walls to buckle and officials to condemn the premises.
That left 25 tenants without a home Monday night—and angered over conditions at their 12-apartment complex.
The trouble began around 3:30 p.m. at the building at 335 Fountain.
Tenant Sharmon Little (pictured) noticed the inside wood walls of his apartment starting to separate from the brick veneer.
“You could stick your hand in between where the wall is separating” throughout his apartment, he said. “My cabinets are almost falling off.”
Little, a 37-year-old nurse who lives with his wife and two children, promptly informed a “maintenance dude” on the premises, who observed that walls were starting to come apart by the stairs as well.
The employee called Shay Gross, who supervises maintenance for that building and others run by Pike International, among the city’s largest landlords. Gross promptly called 911.
The fire department and city Assistant Building Inspector James Eggert rushed to the scene. Eggert determined the building was in danger of collapse. He condemned it and order it evacuated.
The buckling of the walls apparently resulted from pressure on the roof from Nemo’s historic snowfall as well as the rain that fell Monday.
The premises were taped off; police closed Fountain between Dayton and West Prospect to traffic. (The incident was initially reported as a “roof collapse,” but as of mid-evening it was standing.)
Tenant Judith Johnson was in the shower at the time of the order.
“They came in and asked us to evacuate the building because it was in imminent danger of collapsing due to structural damage. We had less than five minutes to get out. I have my son’s clothes on and my jacket,” she said later as she stood in the cool evening air on Fountain Street.
She and other tenants complained about conditions at the building as well as mounds of unplowed and unshoveled snow since the storm. (Gross called the parking lot “complicated” to clear.) A Pike-affiliated partnership purchased the building last year for $1.35 million. It was built in 1963.
Fire Chief Michael Grant arranged for a school bus to arrive to keep the tenants warm Monday evening while they awaited their fate.
He and Fire Marshal Faustino Lopez went inside a few times to retrieve stranded pets, including Judith Johnson’s chihuahua and Snowball, tenant Lorenzo Bines’ collier-pit bull mix.
They also retrieved insulin for tenant Myra Lopez’s diabetes.
Lionel Dunlop of the the American Red Cross’s Disaster Action Team (at right in photo) arrived to arrange lodgings for the displaced tenants. Seven of the 25 found places to stay on their own; the other 18 would stay at a motel on Pond Lily Avenue.
Pike’s Gross told Sharmon Little that he and other tenants should stop by the company’s office at 9 a.m. Tuesday if they’d like to move into a different Pike apartment elsewhere in town. Click on the play arrow to the video at the top of the story to watch the encounter.
“It’s gonna be rough for a week possibly,” Gross told Little.
“Rough ain’t the word. I got no clothes, no nothing,” Little responded.
Gross said he hopes tenants will be allowed back in the building Tuesday morning after the city inspects it.