The Brooks on St. Paul, an Ecuman senior living facility, had to evacuate 24 residents on the first floor of the building in July during a flash flood. Sixteen of those residents moved to Traditions II in Owatonna but had to move again this week as their contracts expired. (Press file photo)

OWATONNA — A senior living facility in Owatonna is awaiting damage assessments before facility managers can determine a timeline to move recently evacuated residents back into their homes.

The Brooks on St. Paul — an Ecumen facility located on the north side of town that provides independent living, assisted living, and memory care — had to evacuate 24 residents living on the first floor at midnight on Friday, July 5, after a flash food breached the building.

“Sixteen residents were moved to Traditions and the remainder were able to go home with their relatives and loved ones,” said Ben Taylor, the Ecumen Corporate Communications Manager. “The flood has only affected the people on the first floor. The residents on the second floor are able to stay in the building.”

Due to the recent heavy rains during the first week in July, Taylor said that both the creek behind the building and the pond across the street overflowed late Friday, causing water to seep into the first floor. Taylor noted that when the water was noticed at midnight, the staff immediately took action.

“The staff was just incredible,” Taylor said. “They got the police and fire personnel there and started moving residents out of the building, working through the night on a holiday weekend to relocate people and call residents’ family members. Everyone was evacuated safely and quickly.”

As Taylor mentioned, 16 residents from Brooks were moved to Traditions in Owatonna, another assisted living facility that does not have a connection to Ecumen. Though the Ecumen staff is still caring for the relocated residents at Traditions, Taylor said that the accommodation made by Traditions speaks volumes of the type of people who work in the senior living field.

“The people are Traditions were just terrific and there were people from another long-term care community that also came over to help out,” Taylor said. “Everybody was just trying to get people safe and well-cared for, it was a real community effort all the way around.”

Since Friday night, Taylor said that a city building inspector, an insurance adjustor, and a kitchen inspector have been to the facility to help assess the damage. The Department of Health has also been notified and kept in the loop throughout the process.

Taylor confirmed that the flooding didn’t result in any damage to the integrity of the building and that it is still safe for the residents on the second floor to occupy the facility.

The kitchen on the first floor had been closed since the night of the flood, but Taylor said they were able to re-open it on Wednesday and resume preparing meals and serving their residents. During the time the kitchen was closed, the facility had meals catered from Hy-Vee in Owatonna.

Moving forward, Taylor said that as they are awaiting the full damage assessment to be complete that their main concern are the carpets and the walls on the first floor that were damaged by the water. Taylor noted that in some places of the building there was only an inch of water, while in other places six inches of water came in.

“Some walls will need to be replaced for a certain distance up where the water reached,” Taylor said. “Possibly some cabinets will need to be replaced as well.”

A restoration company was able to respond to the facility within a matter of hours of the water being discovered. Taylor said that the initial cleanup was done fairly quickly.

“Everybody is conferring what it will take to get people back in the building, but at this point no one is ready to speculate when that will be,” Taylor explained. “Obviously we want to get everyone back in their homes as quickly as possible, but it may take a few more days before we know the full extent of the damage and what needs to be repaired and replaced.”

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 444-2378 or Follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie.

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