In 2005, Florida experienced one of the worst hurricane seasons in terms of frequency and severity of storms. Anyone who lived through those trying times remembers how long it took to get things back to normal. Power, in some cases, was out for months. This outage disrupted businesses and dwellings for months. This is the story of one high-rise that didn’t have a backup generator.
To show just how bad this got for some residents we gathered some information from residents at a Pompano Beach, FL high-rise condominium that was located right on the beach north of Atlantic Avenue. To begin to understand how devastating this was for some residents, you have to go back 3 years before, when the building started undergoing balcony renovations. The building at that time was almost 40 years old. Wind, sand, salt and other conditions served to weaken the concrete balconies over that period and many were failing. When construction began, it was to be a 6-month process with most of the work beginning in the spring of 2002 and ending by that fall. Poor contractor selection and fraud compounded to extend the project through 2002 and into 2003. Residents lived with construction debris and scaffolding for months on end. When 2003 closed out, the building was still no closer to completion on 200+ balcony retrofits. Two contractors later and it is now hurricane season 2005.
When power went out in this building, there was no backup. Residents, many of whom were over 70, were stranded on higher floors of this 21 story building. Because the building had no generator, a portable generator was rented. This limited the number of hours the generator could run each day. For more than 4 months, residents had to use the elevator between 11 am and 1 pm. The other 22 hours of the day there was no elevator service. Imagine being trapped in your condo because it was impossible not only to go down 17 floors, but return to your apartment via a stairway when you are 70, 75 or 80 years old?
In addition to the elevator problem, there were no lights, no running refrigerators, no air conditioning and no television. For four months. And, while that was happening, the concrete work was still going on creating dust and flying debris so residents had to keep their doors and windows closed. Oh, and no hot water.
It is hard to imagine being without power for a few hours, or a day or two. But for four months, these residents who paid good money for their unit and pay substantial amounts every month in assessments were left to fend pretty much for themselves. It is unconscionable that the building did not have its own source of emergency power for situations such as these.