Heavy rain damages apartments

KATE GLASS/Staff file photo/Damage caused by heavy rains has forced 11 tenants out of their homes at the Central Grammar Apartments on Dale Avenue in Gloucester. The landlord is putting them up in a Danvers hotel as repairs are made.

Eleven tenants of the Central Grammar Apartments on Dale Avenue are staying at a Danvers hotel after heavy rain late last weekend flooded and damaged their homes, forcing them out.

Sharon Murray said the storms that ran Friday night into Saturday morning collapsed the ceilings of the living room and bedroom in her fourth-floor apartment, where she lives with her husband, James.  

"My first sense was that the cat was going crazy, and it was just pouring outside," Murray said in a phone interview Wednesday. "So I got my husband up and we got out."

She said that she and her husband went with other residents to a community room within the former school building, where the apartments are geared toward residents 55 and older and include 80 units of recognized affordable housing. The Fire Department called for "evacuating" the parts of the building threatened by the flooding and heavy rain, Chief Eric Smith said, but none of the residents were forced to leave the building.

"It was apparent there was no hazard to the entire building," Smith said, "but at the start, we didn't know exactly where the leak was or where the water was coming from."

Moments later — sometime approaching 4 a.m., Sharon Murray said —the ceilings collapsed in the couple's apartment and others. There were no reports of any injuries due to the incident.

Kirk Noyes, head of the profit Gloucester Development Team Inc. that developed and owns the property, toured the building Wednesday with insurance representatives and a contractor who is set to begin repair work as early as Thursday. Noyes said insurers have estimated the damage at roughly $100,000.

Noyes explained that there are decks on the fifth floor of the building, but that they are built within the exterior frame of the building, which sits across the street from Gloucester's U.S. Post Office and City Hall. The decks, he said, are served by two drain lines that carry off water when it rains.

"Apparently, what happened is that the drains themselves got covered over with mud. Once the drains got clogged, the water began to build up on the decks," Noyes said Wednesday, adding the water was as much as 8 inches deep.

As the water rose, it topped a retention barrier and made its way into the interior walls of the building, Noyes said. And that brought ceilings crashing down below.

Noyes said the damage primarily affected four units on the fourth floor. Murray noted that two units on the third floor —  below her and her husband's apartment — were affected as well. 

The Gloucester Development Team is covering the cost of housing the residents at the Marriott Courtyard.

Noyes said the repair plans call for installing wider drains in addition to replacing furniture, painting and taking other improvement steps. He said cleaning work began over the weekend, but he  estimated that it could be another two weeks before residents are able to return to their homes. 

He said that, while the development team had dealt with a number of repair issues in the past, "this caught us by surprise."

"I hadn't had anything in which a storm created so much havoc," he said.

Murray, meanwhile, said she and her husband are looking forward to reuniting at their home with their cat. Savannah did not evacuate the building during the flooding, but remained behind and has been tended to by building manager Audrey Latham.

"She's done so much for us — for all of us — during this," Murray said. "We had to leave with basically nothing, and she's brought us over some things. She's just been wonderful."

Noyes said he's hopeful that life for the Central Grammar tenants will get back to normal soon. Smith said there are no signs that the building has been compromised structurally.

"We're just looking to get things fixed and get everyone back in there as soon as we can," Noyes said. "It's just good that it wasn't worse."

Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or rlamont@gloucestertimes.com.

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