September 16, 2008

The Wrath of Mother Nature

If you have not been HERE to see the before and afters... you must go.

I posted before it hit, that it was the misery I dreaded. People don't get it. They don't understand how nothing works... the fabric of society as we know it is torn.

As I posted years ago... the flooding is nasty chemical and sewage laden water, with a swirl of snakes and fire ants.

The misery is incomprehensible.

And how much do you want to bet they are allowed to rebuild on a barrier island?

Posted by Boudicca at September 16, 2008 09:04 PM | TrackBack

Just crazy!

Posted by: Sissy at September 16, 2008 10:04 PM

Holy mother of god! That is some scary shit. You read about the devastation and see the after pictures - but this comparison is really shocking.

And these people should NOT be allowed to rebuild there.

Posted by: Kris, in New England at September 17, 2008 09:21 AM

Oh, I agree that it was stupid for those that lived in Galveston to remain during the storm, and I am all for martial law to get everyone to vacate until it is habitable again. I am also annoyed at the entitlement from so many people that DIDN'T
BOTHER TO HAVE THREE DAYS WORTH OF SUPPLIES! GAH! However, to say that they can't or shouldn't rebuild on a barrier island/coastline is going a bit far. If you continue with that logic, there should be nothing anywhere on the Gulf Coast, Southern Atlantic coast and the state of Florida should be almost uninhabited. Most of California should also clear out. Kansas, Oklahoma and West Texas should also reconsider habitation. Let's then add everyone along a river and on and on. I don't usually subscribe to slippery slope mentality, but there are acts of God all across the nation that happen on a fairly regular basis. That's what the insurance "racket" is for. However, I do think that insurance rates should (and generally do) reflect the risk and those without sufficient insurance perhaps should not expect FEMA to pay to rebuild a dwelling in a high-risk insurance area. Nor should FEMA allow their dollars to be spent for that. Then again, you can't really tell someone that they can't rebuild where their job and lives have always been. BOI's (born on island) are very stubborn and territorial, as we have all seen. The island is in their blood. Anyone who rebuilds should have complete insurance coverage and rebuild accordingly. Also, 18-20 ft concrete pilings and steel beam construction should be the standard, not the exception for only $1M homes.

Besides all of that, the state may take over many properties ($1M ones, too) because they are now past the vegetation line. I haven't heard the Governor address this subject, yet. However, the State of Texas automatically stakes claim to any coastal property past the vegetation line to keep people from building too close to the beach to allow for erosion. There were yards of erosion in this storm - entire rows of houses were washed away and houses that were set a fair distance from the sand are now ON the beach as you can see in the before and after photos. That is really a huge bummer - I'm not sure how that will all work out. Will insurance payout if the property has been claimed by the state? This could really ruin some lives. It is horrible if it is your home you lost and you have to try to move on, but to have your finances ruined over a vacation home and possibly lose your other undamaged home in the process, too...what awful irony.

Bolivar is pretty much just gone. Very much like Greensburg, Kansas that got wiped out by a tornado. Luckily the historic Bolivar lighthouse and the two vintage family homes on the property seemed to make it fairly unscathed. I actually dated one of the boys whose family owns that vacation property when I was in high school - I spent a few fun days there. His cousin and his wife have been living there and painstakingly restoring the homes. I spent a lot more time in Crystal Beach which is now just GONE. I went to high school in Beaumont and Crystal was the closest beach for hanging out. So much time spent there. (So much Boone's Farm...)

Farther north, the Texas City Dike is gone - I fished and crabbed off of that dike and drank sodas at the fishin' joints with my dad. I lived there until 3rd grade and have so many memories of those fishing trips. Gone.

I'm of two minds on this. As a taxpayer and citizen I am annoyed to have to pay for irresponsible homeowners to rebuild. As a person that has lived in this region for most of my life, I am sad to see places that have so many memories attached gone forever, never to return. I feel the same about New Orleans. I've spent some significant time there - I fell in love there. That's about the stupidist place to build a city ever. I still can't bear to think that all of these places would just be wiped off the face of the earth and I wouldn't want to be the one that had to tell even one of these families that they weren't allowed to come back. Even the dumbasses that stayed.

I just had to throw this out there, as I know that so many people are speaking without the emotion attached to this area.

Sorry to post yet another super long post, Bou, but I felt the need to get out a SE Texas girl's point of view.

Posted by: Momotrips at September 17, 2008 10:54 AM

On a brighter note, I was finally able to get hold of my stepmother, who lives on the NW fringe of Houston (off of 290, just outside the tollway belt). She says they just got their power and water back yesterday, and her damage was limited to a downed fence. Grocery stores are starting to get back into business, but there still is a serious gas shortage. Most of the damage, according to her, was on the east and south sides of Houston, and of course Galveston. I'm happy to hear that things are well for her, but kinda disappointed. Hoping that she'd pack up and visit!

Posted by: diamond dave at September 17, 2008 11:31 AM

"As a taxpayer and citizen I am annoyed to have to pay for irresponsible homeowners to rebuild."

Momo- that's my chief reason for feeling that those folks shouldn't be allowed to build in places like that. I would also suggest that a barrier island isn't the same as the coast of any state. It's "out there", hanging in the breeze sotospeak with nothing on either side to protect it.

I live in New England - where we get hammered by snow and ice for 4-5 months of the year. Trees fall on houses during violent thunderstorms. Roads get washed away in spring rains and flooding from snowmelt. You are right, each region has its own unique challenges for living.

But my tax dollars shouldn't be used to subsidize - or compensate - people who make the decision to live in high risk areas like the extreme coastlines of hurricane-prone areas.

Posted by: Kris, in New England at September 17, 2008 01:47 PM

Good to hear your mom's okay and "empowered", Dave. I'm probably straight south of her - SW of the beltway down 59. We were very lucky on this side of the storm.

Posted by: Momotrips at September 17, 2008 01:48 PM

Kris, I'm not going to argue - it is opinion only and it would be rude to Bou. As a conservative, I understand your opinion - it is a little knee-jerk, though. After watching continuous coverage I can't honestly say that forbidding development of ocean front property is the best thing to do. More stringent building codes and insurance requirements, definitely, forbidding people from living there entirely, not so much.

Posted by: Momotrips at September 17, 2008 03:46 PM

Momotrips- Gilchrest is gone too. Of like 1000 bldgs, only 5 are still standing. I have a post on that coming.

My issue for rebuilding... as long as MY taxpaying money doesn't have to foot the bill, people can live wherever they want. But the minute it starts infringing on MY income, then I have issues.

I live in S. FL and I think that building in some of the areas that people have built... is a mistake and if its going to cost me as a Floridian, even if it means it hikes my rates to offset theirs, then they should not be able to build there. Barrier Islands down here are one.

Like I said, if it doesn't effect my money? Go right ahead.

What we're seeing a lot of in Florida is the coastline is the golden chalice and those with big money build there. Then when their homes are destroyed... we all end up paying for it one way or another. Insurers pull out, our rates go up, and on and on. Its just not right.

We're not talking old haunts unfortunately. All along Pensacola Beach, it is all new construction. I shake my head. Why?

But... if folks can do it with their own money... they can do it. It just is not allowed to effect me in ANY way.

Posted by: Bou at September 17, 2008 04:53 PM

Yeah, Gilchrist is gone - it's probably the worst hit.

I don't want to pay for the rebuilds either, but how can you tell these people that know nothing else that they can't go home just because they aren't millionaires? These are by and large working class folks that populate the refineries and chemical plants and all the businesses that have grown off of them or they are professional fisherman or shrimpers. This isn't quite the same as the problem folks from N.O. These people aren't wealthy, many are as redneck as they come, but they are employed by and large. And proud. Not all, but you always have that. Like I said, I'm of two minds on this. I don't want to pay for it, but I feel so bad for these people. I dare say I almost feel -gasp- a little bit liberal! That rarely happens...really. I'm as surprised as anyone.

My BIL's family are bay house dwellers in San Leon and have been for almost 50 years. They won't budge. 85 year-old dad is living in the house with 2 generators. Alone. Did I mention he is legally blind? And there are collapsed houses all around him? These people are physically attached to that area.

His extended family were islanders until their deaths. They were redneck shrimpers, refinery workers, offshore roughnecks and the like. They lived a simple life: fishing, hunting, cooking awesome food and lots of beer. They were quite comfortable financially, though. That's the case with many of these people (not all), I think. You'd be surprised. They work hard, make really decent money and spend it on pickups, fancy fishing gear, oh, and guns. Their houses are usually sadly outdated, but outfitted to party. Lots of money leftover for retirement. Perhaps we'll be surprised by what happens in the wake. I hope.

The million dollar plus houses still stand. I only saw a couple that looked like they had extensive damage so far. Concrete and steel. They should build like they do in Central America, etc. Concrete boxes. When storms threaten they move stuff upstairs, close the storm shutters and just hose everything down after they pass. An old friend built her retirement home in Honduras like that. It was really beautiful, too. Maybe they have the right idea.

Posted by: Momotrips at September 17, 2008 09:38 PM

In my opinion, no one should be allowed to build on land that's less than 100 meters above sea level and within 100 km from the Atlantic or Gulf coasts. (Of course, there is the downside of that displacing about a third of the U.S population, but it's a small price to pay to keep everyone safe from hurricanes. (And as a bonus, we wouldn't have to worry any more about the outcome of presidential elections depending on Florida voters.)

Posted by: Bob at September 17, 2008 10:25 PM

Momotrips- I know where you're coming from. My sister in law up in NJ, married into a family of fisherman off the Jersey shore. They all all coastal dwellers and have been since their families came to America. I know the homes, the people, the way they live. Fisherman, factory workers, waitresses... they all have decent jobs.

But as much as I empathize, I don't want to help pay to rebuild.

That said, I do feel awful for the coastal Texans BECAUSE they aren't people with big money who decided they wanted primo real estate. As you said, they are hard working folks... people with jobs and families and a part of the fabric of our society.

That's what makes it tough.

Some of these folks, Mother Nature decided for them. Barrier Islands shift, the sands move, and so their property is just not there anymore. This water is not going to recede. The topography has changed.

Here in Florida, and this makes me NUTS, we are constantly paying to dredge sand to rebuild our coasts from erosion, so people don't lose their homes. That makes me absolutely INSANE.

Bill- Daggum! Are you sure you want 100 KM? Maybe 10 KM. Because I live outside of 10 klicks, I'd be cool. 100 and yeah, no Florida voting worries!

Posted by: Bou at September 18, 2008 06:16 AM

People are rebuilding in areas of Mississippi that Katrina demolished...and spending a lot to build big, big houses. Why should this be? Are we nuts?

Barrier islands are temporary at best. They are the mainland's first natural line of defense in the face of severe cyclonic storms. Nothing that is built on a barrier island is going to be there forever.

In the old days, the kind of houses most people built on in such places were simple, cheap A-frames and cottages. If a storm came and washed 'em away, no big deal - you just rebuilt. Cheap is the operative word here.

But after Hurricane Carla in 1961, the government came in and started providing flood insurance at subsidized rates, in effect encouraging people to rebuild in risky areas. Not just rebuild: rebuild bigger, more expensive houses. Now you have idiots building $1 million homes on barrier islands...because the government helps pay for rebuilding (via subsidized flood insurance) if a disaster strikes. Which makes us taxpayers the biggest idiots.

By all means, build wherever you want...but eliminate government subsidies for flood insurance so only people who can afford the risk will build expensive homes on barrier islands.

OK, rant over.

Posted by: Elisson at September 18, 2008 11:29 AM