City officials say it may be days before all Alpha Towers residents can return home

12/3/2013
BLADE STAFF
Donetta Hayes, a resident at the Alpha Towers housing complex near downtown Toledo, described her frustration at being barred from the building.
Donetta Hayes, a resident at the Alpha Towers housing complex near downtown Toledo, described her frustration at being barred from the building.

The apartment complex Alpha Towers, which houses many senior citizens, evacuated its residents on the evening of Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, after a malfunction triggered the fire suppression system throughout the building.
The apartment complex Alpha Towers, which houses many senior citizens, evacuated its residents on the evening of Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, after a malfunction triggered the fire suppression system throughout the building.

Jennifer Sorgenfrei, a spokesman for Mayor Mike Bell, said today it could be days before all residents of Alpha Towers are allowed back into their apartments, although she said it's possible some of those who live in lesser-damaged parts could return as early as later today or tomorrow.

The 165-unit, nine-story building at 525 E. Woodruff Ave. was placed under an evacuation order about 9 p.m. Monday after a problem with a water main caused the building's sprinklers to activate. Water damage began on the eighth floor and worked its way down, causing structural damage and a temporary loss of electricity in some areas. City fire, safety, and environmental officials ordered the evacuation following an impromptu, late-evening inspection, Ms. Sorgenfrei said.

A follow-up inspection today reaffirmed their decision, Ms. Sorgenfrei said, explaining that damaged areas need to be dried out and repaired before inspectors will consider them habitable.

Some inspectors have agreed to work overtime today to help residents in lesser-damaged areas move in if contractors can get the necessary repairs done today, she said.

Ms. Sorgenfrei said it was hard to predict if that would happen that soon, though.

She said it will take days for the building to dry out and be fixed in areas with more extensive damage.

Building managers, government officials and repairmen stand in the lobby of Alpha Towers near downtown Toledo.
Building managers, government officials and repairmen stand in the lobby of Alpha Towers near downtown Toledo.

The American Red Cross was providing shelter for 53 of the residents at the UAW Local 12 union hall, 2300 Ashland Ave. Food was being donated by that group and local businesses.

The building houses mostly senior citizens, but has some people from other age groups.

Those who stayed in the union hall said they had a rough night sleeping on cots.

Many complained of delays in getting their medication. The building management was not letting residents into the structure to retrieve them. But arrangements were being made to get certain medications and medical supplies from rooms on their behalf.

Arthur Fowler, 47, said he has lived at Alpha Towers for a decade with his grandmother, Annabelle Hall, who is 97 and uses a wheelchair. He said she was very fragile and shook up by the evacuation.

"I'm worried about her right now," Mr. Fowler said. "I'm getting a nurse to calm her down."

Eugene Austin, 72, who also has lived at the building for a decade, said residents are sleep-deprived and confused by the multiple problems the building has had in recent months.

"It's been rough," he said. "Those people had no plans to get people out. They were herding them like cattle."

Donetta Hayes, 24, who also lives in the building, said water damage was so extensive that some of the building's interior "looked like a rain forest" when residents were evacuated.