His first floor had flooded, wrecking furniture and electronics, he said. Possessions on the second and third floors seemed safe. After being rescued, Smalls, soaked through, headed to Wal-mart to buy dry socks and pants.
"Everything's wet," he said.
Outside the complex entrance on Flat Rock Road, six cars were submerged.
A red BMW convertible sat trapped in waist-deep waters. The car's emergency flashers blinked in the rain, and the windshield wipers flapped side to side. But the driver was gone, having abandoned the car.
The Venice Lofts blended three newer buildings with four historic textile mill structures, consisting of 38 townhomes and 90 loft apartments. On its website, it touts hardwood floors, gourmet kitchens and marble master baths - luxury living with canal or river views.
Back in 2001, a city Common Pleas Court judge barred development of the project, saying that building apartments on Venice Island "poses too great a risk to human life and property."
Later court rulings cleared the way for construction, and developers said then that the project was designed with adequate safety measures.
"If I felt that I was placing anyone in jeopardy, I would not do this project," developer Carl Dranoff said at the time.
Dranoff said today that the structures were built to withstand the flooding that occurs on the Schuylkill every five or 10 years. The development includes a bridge that allows people to leave, and machinery was placed on higher levels.
"The buildings are performing exactly as planned," he said on Friday. "Every precaution was taken in the design of the buildings. There's no harm to people."
His company, Dranoff Properties, has been in contact with fire and police officials since flooding became possible, and managers on site were assisting with evacuations, he said.
He said he expected people to return home later today. "Hopefully, when the water starts to recede, we'll be getting people back in," Dranoff said. "The main thing is to prevent injuries or bodily harm. Buildings can be fixed. ... We evacuate buildings as a precautionary measure, because we want people to be out of harm's way."
On Friday morning, the canal rose and the Schuylkill flooded.
Fire Department officials estimated that 250 people live in the complex, and that 75 were at home and had to be evacuated on Friday morning. A special-operation squad rescued two residents from a separate set of buildings, the townhomes, on rafts.
Jennifer Moretti, 35, a resident of the complex since May, said she was evacuated by firefighters at 8:25 a.m.
"We were told there was a possibility of flash floods, so be prepared. But I didn't think anything of this magnitude would happen," she said, as she stood outside the building.
An evacuation shelter was set up at Roxborough High School, though no one was there today. Some people chose to stay and watch, staring at the water after wading to safety. Others moved on.
"I don't know how they got the permit to build these buildings," said a local resident, John Mooney, 54, who has lived in Manayunk almost all his life. "This is unbelievable."
This morning flooding spread onto Main Street, the water a foot deep near the CVS pharmacy store. Motorists were being told to avoid coming onto Main Street from the direction of the movie theater. The flooding was expected to increase, but not to be as severe as previously estimated.
Evan Kurz, a 24-year-old medical student, made his way into the Venice complex to get his dog, Sadie, as fire alarms blared. The Pomerianian-Poodle mix was scared, but physically fine, he said.
Kurz shares a fifth-floor unit with his girlfriend, and both had moved their cars to higher ground as rain fell through Thursday night.
At 10:30 a.m. today, Kurz said, he was in class when he realized he had missed a call on his cellphone from the building management. He knew what the call was about - the management had earlier passed out a memo that warned of possible flooding.
After navigating blocked and flooded streets in his car, he parked and made his way on foot to the building, where officials told him no one was allowed inside.
They let him pass to get his dog, Kurz said.
At his apartment, he grabbed his dog. He also snatched a suit, shirt, shoes and a tie, to wear to a wedding he's to attend this weekend in New York.
"I couldn't see any water in the building I could see water," said Kurz, who attends Philadelphia College of Osteophathic Medicine.
Kurz has lived there just two months.
"The property manager was checking this morning," he said. "There wasn't mayhem, but people were definitely aware of the possibility of flooding, and getting anxious."
Inquirer staff writer Clem Murray contributed to this story.
Contact staff writer Jeff Gammage at 215-854-2415 or firstname.lastname@example.org.