Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

17 floors, 225 seniors, 1 real estate mogul, no power and one sense of community

CLEARWATER — Tony Hull, 62, rolled his wheelchair into his fifth floor apartment in Prospect Towers and peeked at the thermometer: 81 degrees.

Karen Datkun, 66, drank some warm water and was still thirsty.

The 17-story Prospect Towers senior living building was on its third day without power after Hurricane Irma knocked it out Sunday night, and owner Ben Mallah knew spirits were wearing thin.

"Watch it, or I'll call your parole officer," Mallah joked with Jean Cox, 79, in the common room.

With no air conditioning, no lights and no power to cook in the 208 independent living apartments, Mallah has recruited his family and staff of his real estate firm to care for the seniors.

He "cleaned out a Publix" Tuesday morning to buy cold cuts and bread and fixed more than 200 sandwiches in the common room's kitchen. He called the restaurant inside the Ramada Westshore that he owns and ordered hot meals for every resident for the next several days.

With a generator powering only the elevator, emergency lights and limited emergency outlets, residents huddled around fans in the common room Wednesday and ate their Ramada chicken and broccoli.

"In my book if you own a property, you have to take care of the people," Mallah said. "Plus, if I don't feed them, how are they going to pay me rent?"

IN DEPTH PROFILE: Self-made real estate mogul mixes profit with the profane

Some senior facilities were hit hard by the outages caused by Hurricane Irma. The Oaks of Clearwater lost power Sunday, and the 310 residents were without it until 4 p.m. Tuesday.

But a lighting bolt blew a transformer and the 15-story building was still without elevator service Wednesday. Staff was delivering food to residents up the stairs, executive director Madeline McCarthy said.

The Oaks' emergency management plan, required for certified assisted living facilities, had called for a seven-day supply of dry food but the facility ordered half a semi-truck load more for the independent residents too.

The 60-resident facility at St. Mark Village in Palm Harbor was still without air conditioning and power Wednesday, said CEO Doug Fresh. Food was being prepared at the 430-resident sister facility nearby, which lost power for only seven hours Monday, and hauled over, Fresh said.

Jason Martino, emergency coordinator of the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas Counties, said the agency had no reports of any nursing homes or skilled-nursing centers that have patients and no power. Hillsborough County's Aging Services could not be immediately reached for comment late Wednesday.

Eight Hollywood nursing home residents died Wednesday in a facility left without air conditioning after Irma, and police have launched a criminal investigation.

Martino said some Pinellas facilities without power had already moved residents/patients to secondary facilities and that his agency is in constant communication with Pinellas emergency managers.

"That is one of the hottest priorities in the county at the moment," he said about keeping power on to these centers.

Nancy Bivins, 55, said while her room on the 16th floor of Prospect Towers has gotten stifling, the outage has in a way brought the place together.

While sweating around the same fan in the common room, Bivins has made new friends she had never run into before — like Josie Johnson, 64, from the fifth floor.

Sheila Cleary said the building's owner making sandwiches and delivering catered food was appreciated, especially since it's common knowledge among residents that owner is a real estate mogul.

"He's been here like he doesn't have the millions," Cleary said.

Mallah's Equity Management Partners owns 21 properties across Florida. He stars in a tongue-in-cheek web series, Life: for sale, by filmmaker Danny Jones, that shows him closing deals, ranting at the camera in his New York accent and toting ex-wrestlers in his entourage.

He said he has a soft-spot for the senior living facility, and he's known to throw parties for the residents and stop by to chat with them.

His leasing agent, Steve Jones, has been sleeping on an air mattress in an empty unit since Saturday and will stay there until power comes back. He's the familiar face behind the front desk and has been fielding calls from concerned relatives and conducting a check-in on all 225 residents daily.

Mallah said there have been two health emergencies since Sunday. An ambulance had to be called for Hull on Monday when the heat made it hard for him to breathe, and another resident fell out of his wheelchair in front of Hull's ambulance.

Datkun said she's spent most of her time since Sunday in the common room in front of the fan.

"It's very, very hot," Datkun said. "It's miserable."

She looked around at the food and the friends.

"But this helps," she said.

Around 7 p.m., the lights flickered on. Power was restored.

Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

     
 
Comments
3 dead from severe weather in Arkansas, Kentucky

3 dead from severe weather in Arkansas, Kentucky

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Severe thunderstorms spawned suspected tornadoes and triggered widespread flooding that left at least three people dead in Kentucky and Arkansas. The system that stretched from Texas to the Canadian maritime provinces on Sunday ha...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Forecast: Tampa Bay’s week of record-breaking highs coming to an end

Forecast: Tampa Bay’s week of record-breaking highs coming to an end

As the week closes out, Tampa Bay can expect continued abnormally high temperatures, a lot of sunshine and just a slight chance of scattered showers.But at least the heat isn’t expected to be record-breaking.For the past four days, the bay area set r...
Published: 02/23/18
‘The sound of death:’ Deadly tornadoes ravage Central Florida in dark (from 1998)

‘The sound of death:’ Deadly tornadoes ravage Central Florida in dark (from 1998)

EDITOR’S NOTE: While many of us were asleep, a string of deadly tornadoes tore through east-central Florida on Feb. 22-23, 1998, destroying homes and resulting in 42 deaths and more than 260 injuries. On the 20th anniversary of that tragedy, here is ...
Published: 02/23/18
Forecast: Warm weather persists in Tampa Bay, but slightly cooler weekend ahead

Forecast: Warm weather persists in Tampa Bay, but slightly cooler weekend ahead

Tampa Bay has broken record high temperatures since Monday, and Thursday should be no different.Happy Thursday! We are rolling through the week and once again temperatures will be near record highs this afternoon. If we break the record high of 85° t...
Published: 02/22/18
Forecast: No end in sight to Tampa Bay’s record-setting heat

Forecast: No end in sight to Tampa Bay’s record-setting heat

A high-pressure system covering central Florida is maintaining record-setting warm temperatures and dry weather across the Tampa Bay, and there is no end in sight.Record highs in the upper 80s were set Tuesday in Sarasota, Tampa Bay and Clearwater. I...
Published: 02/21/18
Forecast: After hottest day of the year, record heat to continue across Tampa Bay

Forecast: After hottest day of the year, record heat to continue across Tampa Bay

Published: 02/20/18
Forecast: Temperatures hover near record highs across Tampa Bay, with little rain

Forecast: Temperatures hover near record highs across Tampa Bay, with little rain

Warm weather will continue this week across Tampa Bay, with temperatures hanging around the low to mid 80s and a low chance of rain for the first half.Early morning fog is sparse across central Florida with some low visibility inland in places such a...
Published: 02/19/18
Forecast: Record-tying high of 84 today in Tampa Bay

Forecast: Record-tying high of 84 today in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — What winter? 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay areaIt may still be mid February, but this week will already see plenty of sun...
Published: 02/18/18
Forecast: Weekend promises plenty of warmth and sunshine for Tampa Bay

Forecast: Weekend promises plenty of warmth and sunshine for Tampa Bay

A high-pressure system resting atop central Florida will make it difficult for rain to form, spelling a partly cloudy, mostly sunny weekend for the Tampa Bay.Friday morning commuters may see patches of fog, but these will clear up around 9 a.m. and y...
Published: 02/16/18
After fog, mostly sunny skies and warm conditions for Tampa Bay

After fog, mostly sunny skies and warm conditions for Tampa Bay

A thick blanket of fog welcomed early morning commuters in Polk, Hernando and Citrus counties on Thursday morning, prompting a dense fog warning.The fog cover should disperse by around 9:30 a.m., leading to partly cloudy, mostly sunny skies. "It’ll b...
Published: 02/15/18