'At least we have our lives, you guys'

The Grand View Palace in North Bay Village took one of the worst hits in Wilma.

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald

Posted October 28, 2005

On Tuesday afternoon, residents of Grand View Palace in North Bay Village, a hulking building on the edge of Biscayne Bay, wandered around the lobby in a daze.

More than 300 of the 506 units were flooded or had windows or walls blown out by Wilma.

The one elevator that was running, on generator power, inched up and down 25 stories packed with disoriented people trying to decide where they would go from here.

''At least we have our lives, you guys,'' a woman said to nobody in particular. Some nodded, others sighed. Clearly, these were people who had lived through the very worst of Wilma.

Drew Dellacioppa, 38, wore shorts and a borrowed green shirt as he took stock of the losses in his two-bedroom, 21st-floor apartment. Everything but the laptop he managed to grab in the middle of the storm was soaked or covered in plaster or glass.

''I was asleep. All of a sudden the bed started moving. I went to the living room to put towels under the sliding glass doors and all of a sudden they started breaking. It was bing, bing, bing, bing -- like a shootout in a movie. Then I felt myself being sucked out to the balcony,'' said Dellacioppa, a concierge at the Kenilworth condominium in Bal Harbour.

He says the pressure inside his apartment made it difficult to get to the door. When he finally opened it, neighbors helped pull him out to the hall. Somebody gave him a dry shirt. ''I just moved here five weeks ago. I was so happy with my place and with my view of the bay,'' Dellacioppa said.

Like dozens of other units at the Grand View, Dellacioppa's is uninhabitable. All the windows are blown out. Wind rocketed through one of his bedrooms and caved the wall between him and his neighbors. Now they're pretty much roommates.

Yumiko and Oliver Schlaffer wave from their side of the rubble as they clean up. Dellacioppa's wall is on top of their bed. ''Luckily, we didn't sleep here last night. When we were driving here today to see the damage, we made a promise in the car that we were not going to attack each other for not making more preparations,'' said Yumiko, 32.

The one thing they agreed on was taking their photos when they went to spend the night at the South Beach Ritz-Carlton, where Oliver is night auditor.

''We have each other. And we have our instruments. That's what's important,'' said Yumiko, a harpist. Oliver, 28, is a cellist.

Daniel Dallagnese was awake in his 12th-floor apartment when he heard the wind blowing hard against his sliding glass doors. When he looked out one of the windows, he saw a large sofa through the air, then pillows, and a lamp. A tornado, he suspected. He turned to his son, Ramiro, 16, and told him to look outside.

''I didn't finish saying it when our windows blew out,'' he said. Dallagnese, his wife and son ducked into a hall bathroom, where they waited until about 11 a.m.

Dallagnese would have liked to have been more prepared. Like several others, he says he wanted to install shutters but was prevented by association rules. Kim Pinillos, general manager of the Grand View, said: "The condominium association adopted a policy of impact resistant glass or the [shatter-proof] film.''

Richard Dispenzieri, who owns South Beach's Purdy Lounge, bought a penthouse apartment with a southern exposure at the Grand View in April. He also wanted to install shutters after spending $30,000 to renovate.

At 4 a.m. Monday, he noticed water seeping through his windows and sliding glass doors. ''I was mopping. ... At about 6:30 I heard a loud noise and I saw my wall coming apart. . . . I went into the bathroom. At that point, I heard the windows go,'' he said.

At some point, Dispenzieri peeked out the bathroom window. "My pictures were being thrown around, my drawers with my clothes.''

He says he will move in with his ex-wife in Miramar while he figures out his next steps. Now he is ''really depressed.'' And facing an uncertain future.

''I don't know what happens to my apartment,'' he said. "Does it get condemned? Do I rebuild?

"I'm in limbo land.''