Emotions are running high as residents of the Towers at Four Lakes apartments in Lisle prepare to move into their homes Saturday for the first time since flooding inundated the area April 18.
Towers resident Debra Schulz said she and her 15-year-old daughter, Haleigh, are "thrilled" to return to their eighth-floor home after the "humbling" and "stressful" experience of being away for almost two months.
Mayor Joe Broda, who will be on hand as the move-in process begins at 8 a.m., said he expects some residents will be bitter about the length of their exile, caused by storm damage to the buildings' electrical systems. But he hopes moving back will be nothing but a "joyous moment."
"I hope it's a very happy moment for people getting back in their homes," Broda said. "I'd be excited, but it's going to be bittersweet."
Residents of about 475 units were displaced April 18 as an estimated 3.5 million gallons of floodwater swamped the lobbies, basements and underground parking of the two towers, said officials with Marquette Management, the Naperville-based company that operates the complex.
None of the apartments themselves took on water, but the buildings lacked electricity because the power systems, housed on the flooded lower levels, were destroyed.
While two months may seem a long time to restore power, the towers' electrical systems were custom-made about 30 years ago, so fixing them requires specially ordered parts, officials said.
Those parts have not yet been delivered, but Jim Cunningham, Marquette Management's executive vice president, said ComEd helped the company devise a temporary fix so residents can move back in. The village has awarded a temporary occupancy permit until the new electrical switch gear arrives, likely in August.
Broda said staff members appreciate Marquette Management's efforts to get residents back to their homes and belongings as quickly as possible.
"After they got the water out, our inspectors and police have been working closely with them to try to assess the damage and what needed to be repaired," Broda said. "Staff has been working quickly to get permits in place."
The towers have been deemed structurally safe, and residents have been assigned a two-hour move-in time depending on the floor on which they reside, said Deborah Newman, a spokeswoman for Marquette Management.
"We are trying to make sure everyone gets in and out easily," Newman said. "We're working on making sure people have access to the elevators."
Volunteer movers from Montini Catholic High School in Lombard, recruited by Schulz's daughter, Haleigh, will assist tenants with carrying belongings to their apartments.
Marquette Management will provide breakfast, lunch and dinner Saturday for hundreds of residents expected to return. The company also will provide a $100 Jewel gift card to restock refrigerators and freezers emptied to prevent food from spoiling without power.
People living in about 60 units have terminated their leases and moved elsewhere, Newman said.
The management company let tenants out of their leases without penalty and is waiving rent, utilities and fees for pets and parking from April 18 until June 30.
"We've had some very lovely letters from people who have left with great regret because they wanted to keep living here," Newman said.
Many have expressed frustration at the necessity of living with their parents, in a hotel or even a homeless shelter during the two months electrical systems were down, but Newman said most have been understanding.
As the return date approaches, Schulz said she is shopping for flowers for her balcony and awaiting the relief of being home.
"It's going to be the most amazing moment -- well overdue," Schulz said. "It's been a long two months, and we're thrilled."