Elva Rodriguez donned a new black T-shirt with enthusiasm Saturday as she moved back into her apartment at the Towers at Four Lakes in Lisle for the first time after a nearly two-month exile caused by the April 18 floods.
"There's no place like HOME," the shirt read under a Towers at Four Lakes logo.
"It really did feel like it was home," Rodriguez said as she and her husband Ben ate a free breakfast with other residents returning to their apartments Saturday morning.
Rain fell sporadically as residents of the two towers' roughly 475 units trickled in to reclaim their living spaces.
"We don't really need rain moving in because that's what caused us to move out," Rodriguez said.
As flooding rains drenched the Chicago area April 17 and 18, 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 took on water, but the buildings lacked electricity because the power systems, housed on the flooded lower levels, were destroyed.
Marquette Management worked with ComEd and the village of Lisle to develop a temporary solution to restore power before custom equipment can permanently fix the broken electrical systems. That temporary fix is what allowed residents like Dan Guastella, Sam Pancotto and Jeff Scott to be among the first to return Saturday.
Guastella lived with his parents in North Riverside while the complex was uninhabitable. Pancotto said he stayed with friends and family in Oak Brook. Scott spent some time in a Red Cross shelter at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lisle, some in a hotel and some at DuPage County Public Action to Deliver Shelter sites.
Residents moving back in were provided information about how to reconnect electricity to their unit, and a cable company employee was on hand to answer questions about restoring service. A mail carrier delivered letters and bills to the complex for the first time in nearly two months, and anything residents had not picked up at the post office was delivered all at once.
"It's a lot to take in when you're first moving back in, so we're trying to be as accommodating as possible," said Deborah Newman, a spokeswoman for Marquette Management.
The company gave residents of each unit a $100 gift card to Jewel to restock refrigerators cleaned out in the days following the storm. An arch of rainbow balloons offered a festive touch at the towers' entrances and Community Manager Sandra Kowalczyk said a special community brunch with cocktails was planned for Sunday.
As tenants like Guastella brought in loads of clothes, shoes, golf clubs, groceries, and even a bicycle, volunteers from Montini Catholic High School in Lombard served as movers, rolling carts full of belongings into elevators and directly to apartment doors.
"We have a steady pace of residents coming home and it's nice to see that," Lisle Mayor Joe Broda said. "It's a sign of relief. It's the first step to getting your life back together."