The "flood journey" that began April 18 for residents across the region still drags on a month later for many who make their home at the Towers at Four Lakes in Lisle.
None of the apartments in the eight-story towers took on water, but the parking decks and lower levels did. Six to eight feet of floodwaters entering those areas caused system failures and power outages that are keeping residents from their homes to this day -- and are likely to continue doing so for another four weeks.
Many who live at the towers love their homes and all the perks they offer -- free breakfast, movie rentals, summer weekend cookouts, scenic views of hills and lakes -- but they say it's just too much to expect them to wait until June 15 to move back.
"I am choosing to stay at the towers because I love where I live and I just want to go home," said Debra Schulz, who lives on the eighth floor with her 15-year-old daughter, Haleigh. "But this is such a long period of time just to get back into our homes."
Towers at Four Lakes management says the delay results from the power outage and the time it takes to special-order proper equipment to fix electrical systems at the roughly 30-year-old buildings. In emails and Facebook posts, Marquette Management of Naperville has updated residents as often as possible on the progress of flood-damage fixes, said Jim Cunningham, executive vice president.
First, the lower levels had to be drained. Then electrical engineers came in to assess the damage and develop solutions.
Cunningham said engineers developed a temporary power solution that will be in place in a few weeks, allowing contractors to fix plumbing, elevators, fire alarms, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and other life-safety issues before residents move back in June 15 at the latest.
"We were hoping for a much quicker turnaround," Cunningham said. "Our hearts go out to everyone on being displaced for that long."
While residents left the Towers at Four Lakes in the same boat -- in many cases a fire department rescue boat -- all have experienced their own version of what displaced resident Denise Taylor calls the "flood journey."
Taylor's journey included a rescue boat ride and bus trip to the first shelter for flooded Lisle residents at Benedictine University. She later stayed several nights in a Red Cross shelter at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lisle before moving in with her son in Aurora when the shelter closed May 4.
Taylor then got word she could move May 17 to a senior apartment in Chicago. The 58-year-old liver transplant survivor had been on a waiting list, but the Red Cross and other volunteer organizations helped ensure her name was moved up because she was unable to access her home.
"We were able to work with all the families and find them new housing or make a plan to go stay with friends or family, so we were able to close (the Lisle shelter)," said Patricia Kemp, Red Cross communications manager for the Greater Chicago Region.
Of 20 shelters the Red Cross operated after the April 18 flooding, Kemp said the Lisle location was the last to close because it served the most people. Those who still need help can call the disaster case work line at (312) 729-6179.
Also housed temporarily at the shelter was Jeff Scott, who has rented an apartment in the towers for 10 years. He's chronicled his flood journey through Facebook posts, saying he stayed in a homeless shelter May 10 and had to make an emergency room visit for an illness May 11.
Schulz said she and her daughter weren't able to use the Red Cross shelter because of the family's dog, a 7-pound Yorkie who has lost 2 pounds since ingesting floodwater. Schulz is applying for federal assistance with costs she has incurred while staying with her parents in Downers Grove, including replacement of necessary items still trapped in her eighth-floor apartment.
Lisle Mayor Joe Broda said the federal disaster declaration President Barack Obama announced last week for 11 Illinois counties, including DuPage, could be a big relief for his community's residents.
The declaration makes federal assistance, including low-interest loans for cleanup or repairs, available. A FEMA Disaster Recovery Center opened Thursday and will be available from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at the Lisle police station, 5040 Lincoln Ave., to assist with aid applications.
"I think it's going to mean a lot to Lisle residents," Broda said about the availability of government aid. "This is the first time to my knowledge we have been affected this much by flooding."
Cunningham said Towers at Four Lakes management is working to determine whether the company will be eligible for any assistance with damage restoration or future flood mitigation projects. In the meantime, he said displaced residents are free to break their leases and move elsewhere, as Taylor did, or wait it out like Schulz without having to pay rent until after returning home.
"My things are dry, but I've been highly inconvenienced," Schulz said, summing up her version of the flood journey. "Now we know the end is near … I wish it were sooner, but we have another month of figuring out what we're going to do."