Historic hotel feels force of spring storm; plus other area damage

A three-story section on the east side of the 125-year-old Newcomb Hotel collapsed following Wednesday night's severe thunderstorms. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Apr. 18, 2013 11:34 am Updated: May. 2, 2013 12:15 pm
Kendall Wolf with the Melrose Township Road District takes photos of flooding near Halfpap Trailer Park on St. Anthony Road. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)

Herald-Whig Staff Writers

A three-story section on the east side of the 125-year-old Newcomb Hotel collapsed following Wednesday night's severe thunderstorms.

City crews had the parking lot east of the vacant building cordoned off as they examined the damage Thursday morning.

Wind gusts of up to 80 mph were reported throughout the region, causing damage to buildings, trees and power lines, while rain pelted the area throughout the night and into the morning.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at 9 a.m. Thursday, the Quincy gauge on the Mississippi River saw 4.61 inches of rain in the previous 24 hours.

Lock and Dam 21 at Quincy recorded 3.3 inches in a 24-hour period from 6 a.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday. The river stage at Lock and Dam 21 rose from 14.49 feet to 17.83 in the same 24-hour period. Technical flood stage is 17 feet.

Lock and Dam 20 at Canton, Mo., saw 4.15 inches of rain. The Mississippi River rose there from 13.50 feet Wednesday morning to 16.60 feet at 6 a.m. Thursday. Flood stage is 14 feet.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projections show that the Mississippi River should crest in Quincy at 26 feet on Monday. The record level in Quincy of 32.13 feet was reached on July 13, 1993.

Quincy Mayor John Spring said city crews will start sandbagging around the city's water treatment plant on the riverfront.

Several area creeks overflowed and grader ditches were filled, pushing water onto roads and neighboring yards, fields and roads. Simon had warned drivers to proceed with caution while heading out.

The hotel, on the southeast corner of Fourth and Maine, was one of the handful of buildings that received damage in Adams County. John Simon, director of the Adams County Emergency Management Agency, said a First Bankers Trust facility at the corner of 24th and Koch's Lane had roof damage and a farm shed near Liberty collapsed. Pet Supplies Plus at 48th and Broadway and the Flying Inn on Ill. 104 also suffered damage.

"What we feel we'll find is that people will wake up and find shingles in their yard and smaller, more minor damage," Simon said.

Newcomb future to be determined

Mike Seaver, a building inspector with the Department of Planning and Development, said a decision should be made Thursday on what to do with the Newcomb Hotel, saying that the section of the building likely would have to be demolished.

"Obviously, from the looks of it, I don't see how it is feasibly repaired, so more than likely that portion of the building will have to come down," he said. "I don't think the structure of the five-story original building is any way dependent on the existence of this three-story building."

Quincy Mayor John Spring said structural engineers determined that the chimney stack that became exposed is safe.

"However, the south side of the building is obviously very susceptible to further collapse possibly," he said.

The 77,500-square-foot, 120-room hotel, which opened March 6, 1888, has sat vacant for more than 30 years as a variety of developers have attempted to renovate the building. The city has been in a protracted dispute with the building's owner, Victor Horowitz of Skokie, for failing to repay a $500,000 loan he received from the city's Revolving Loan Committee in 2003.

Spring said the city is in the process of notifying Horowitz, who is responsible for the cleanup.

"Right now, it's unsafe to use that alley, and it's unsafe to allow parking in that parking lot in the Kemner building (next door to the east)," he said. "I can't predict when that will be opened back up."

Seaver said the collapse occurred in a three-story section of the building that was added on years after it first opened.

"So if we had the 3, 4, 5 inches of rain that they said we got last night, I'm sure that just deluged and it failed," he said. "We were down here a week or so ago and noticed that the brick was beginning to bow slightly in the first-floor area where it collapsed."

Chuck Bevelheimer, director of planning and development, fell through a collapsed section of the floor in the building in 2011 while giving a tour to Adams County officials.

Trailer court fighting water

Roger Mosley woke up to plenty of water at the Halfpap Trailer Court off St. Anthony's Road.

"It looks like the Mississippi River in front of my trailer," Mosley said. "You can't imagine what it's like. In the middle of the trailer court, all you see is river. It's really moving."

Mosley didn't have anywhere to go this morning, but other residents of the park weren't so lucky.

"A lot of people are getting in cars, leaving and coming back," he said. "A lot of people are stranded out here."

The trailer park sits on a big sand ridge in fields over a creek. Heavy rains several years ago covered the road, but this storm covered the field, too, cutting off access to the park.

"I moved here over 30 years ago," Mosley said. "I've never seen it like this before."

Mosley intends to stay put for now.

"I've got a bass boat down at my brother's," he said. "I may need to tell him to come get me. I need to go to the grocery store."

Huddled in a restroom

Employees Jessica Humke and Daphne Reddy had no idea what was happening outside the Pet Supplies Plus building they were working in Wednesday night.

For 15 minutes, they huddled in a women's room at the rear of the store as a strong storm worked its way through Quincy. They eventually were ushered to a safe place at the County Market grocery store, which anchors a series of stores at 48th and Broadway.

While they were waiting, each found out from family members what had happened.

"I got a text from my husband saying, ‘Your back wall is messed up,' and he sent me a picture that had been on the news," Humke said. "We had no idea."

Reddy said she got a text from her mother in California asking her if she was OK after she had seen damage to the building.

"We were getting texts saying the wall is gone," Reddy said.

The wall wasn't gone, but it had seen better days. Part of the wall near the roof had been ripped open around 6:30 p.m., leaving insulation dripping from the scene and a gaping hole in the northwest portion of the building. The Quincy Fire Department responded to the scene.

"We wanted to get inside and make sure they had everything secured and make sure that there wasn't going to be any water damage to get to any of their important stuff," Lt. Ralph Bowden of the Quincy Fire Department said.

All five employees at the store were safe. The few customers who were in the store at the time left before the wall was damaged.

Renovation plans put on hold

The building that used to be home to the Flying Inn tavern near Quincy Regional Airport suffered extensive damage. Winds shifted the building off its foundation, moving it a few inches to the east.

Most of the entire north side of the building had fallen down. The building was being held up by an exterior pole.

Gabe McClean, who owns the Abbey in Quincy, said his family had bought the building in the past "six to eight months." He said they were planning to put a restaurant in the space and were just about to draw up plans for renovation. His father, Rod, said the building had been vacant since the summer of 2011.

Other weather notes

A pickup truck was caught in high water in the viaduct on Ill. 94 near Golden at 5 a.m. Thursday. The driver climbed out of the truck, which was sideways in the viaduct, into the truck bed until the Adams County Sheriff's Department arrived.

Off-duty deputies were called in early Thursday morning to handle the various accidents, stranded vehicles and washed-out roads.

Schools in the North Shelby and Shelby County R-IV district were closed Thursday because of water on Shelby County roads.

Lightning struck a bungalow at 1315 Locust at 12:43 a.m. Thursday, starting a fire in the attic area. Thirteen firefighters and two inspectors were on the scene for about two hours. There was significant damage to the attic and water damage to the main floor of the house owned by Thora Jones. She was not at home at the time of the fire, according to Quincy FIre Department Assistant Chief Tom Bentley.

The Quincy Fire Department also was called to two residences, 1261 Kentucky and 3404 State, early Thursday morning when water in basements damaged furnaces, causing them to smoke.

The Adams Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Camp Point, had outages in rural Quincy, Fowler, Camp Point, Clayton, Mendon, Liberty, Payson, Mount Sterling, Timewell, Rushville and Camden. At the peak, 3,800 customers were out of service due to a transmission line problem at the Burton substation east of Quincy. Most of customers affected were in Payson, Quincy, Adams and Kellerville area. Electrical service was restored in about two hours to most of these customers.

At 8 a.m. Thursday, between 50 and 75 customers were out of service in the Adams, Brown and Schuyler counties service area, according to Tim Brecht, manager of operations and engineering.

Ameren spokesman Leigh Morris said Quincy had a maximum of 228 outages at the peak of the storm, but the area escaped significant power outages.

"We never had a lot of outages last night," Morris said. "The outages were generally very short in duration."

Staff Writers Deborah Gertz Husar and Nancy Terwelp also contributed to this report.


Storm damage at the Flying Inn Tavern on Ill. 104 near Quincy Regional Airport. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)


Twelve-year-old Leandre Whitner comforts her 10-year-old sister Erica Whitner in the fellowship hall of Calvary Baptist Church as storm sirens sound Wednesday. At left is Peggy Cumby. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)


Heather Kim tries to clean up her flooded basement on York Street in Quincy. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)