Sunday, January 10, 2010

Man Buildeth, The Lord Sayeth "Ya Think?" EDITED

Today, I ventured down to my friend Rosie & Mr. Hawthorne's house for a quick visit. BTW, it is exactly 82.3 miles & 1 hour 29 minutes from my driveway to hers. After a really good lunch, which Rosie describes better than me here, we ventured out. Our target was South Nags Head, which bore some of the worst of the damage from the November Nor'easter. Some video during the storm is here, and here.

Why was the damage so great? Remember the old song you learned in Sunday School about the foolish man who built his house upon the sand? Yeah, there's a reason the dunes are there. See that row of 9 or so houses right along the surf?

Now, I don't know if the surf was right there when they were built. I would hope not. What city with any integrity or sense would issue building permits for such a thing? What builder with any integrity would build them there? The buyers were either arrogant, or stupid, or gamblers. It's really, really hard to have sympathy for such a colossal failure at so many levels, even though I know that some of the owners put all their life savings into those houses, and now it's all gone. I try, but I can't squeeze out any tears. I just want to smack them all and say "What were you thinking?!"

I only hope no one is foolish enough to try that again. But, alas, we can't seem to learn from history. This seems to happen every time there is a big storm on the OBX. Same thing happened with Isabel. She even opened up a new inlet on Hatteras Island.

Anyway, the lesson here? DON'T DO THIS!

See the dune on the right side of this picture? Houses are supposed to go BEHIND it. That would be to the left of the picture. Look where the house is:

Okay numbskull, what happens to your house when you put it in front of the dune so nothing would block your view of the ocean (I could be wrong about that):

It was fricking cold. The temp was 33 and the wind was blowing fiercely. We ended up chewing on sand and freezing to the point of pain. The wind chill had to be in the upper teens or lower 20's. We were woefully underdressed. Oops.

As for the rest of these, I don't really need to say much. There are a lot of pictures. It was jaw-dropping, stunning, sickening, and senseless.

The pilings were sunk deep into the sand. They, uh, hold the house up. Starting at the left, look at the 2nd & 5th pilings. They were swinging free. There was a good 6 inches of air under each. Look at the 1st, 3rd, and 4th. They have been reinforced. Makes you realize this has happened before.

The sand bags didn't work.

This next group of houses are the ones in the Google Earth image at the beginning of this post. The road was completely destroyed. All the septic tanks were uncovered, looking like ghastly coffins. Ewww, but the smell was long gone.

Look at the name of this house.

Yeah, either the house is escaping into the ocean, or it was a warning for the residents that that's what they'd better do.

Should insurance pay for all this? I say NO. Building on the beach is a gamble. Sometimes you lose. The rest of us shouldn't have to pay for it.

The deceased comic Sam Kinison once hollered "it's like people who built their houses on the side of a volcano, then complain when there's lava in the living room."

Mr. Hawthorne is a realtor on the Outer Banks. My friend Russ is in the mortgage lending business on the Outer Banks. They may have another perspective on this that would make me less disgusted, but I don't think so.

Next, more from my visit.

Edited on 1-13-10: A comment on this post prompted some research on my part. You can see it all if you click on the "Comments" link.


Sista G said...

Sheesh - will people never learn?? All they care about is being close (of course, too close) to the ocean, so they can have a great view and hear the gentle lapping of the waves(gentle???). They and the municipalites should have had the sense to know what the primary dune line was for...

Being in the mortgage business, too, the reality is that unfortunately, we only require that a property have sufficient hazard insurance and flood insurance to make the loan. Maybe if people started not being able to get a mortgage at all on these insane properties, it would start sending a message.

Anonymous said...

Quoted from VA Pilot Jan 07, regarding Serendipity, the "Nights in Rodanthe" house that is now in the ocean and currently being relocated:
“It was not a problem at that time, back in ’85 when they started this,” said Roger Meekins, Victor Meekins’ son and the developer of Mirlo Beach. “The erosion has been most significant in the past five years.”

Meekins said Serendipity was the first house he built in Mirlo in 1988, sinking the pilings down 14 feet and using concrete footings.
“I’ve got a photograph that shows a mighty wide beach,” he said. “And it shows at least 400 feet of sand and dunes in front of it.”

People didn't build houses too close to the ocean (or so they thought!), the ocean has just moved closer to the houses.

Additional info about move:

Kathy said...

Anon - thank you for the information. I didn't realize that Serendipity was built that long ago. Another house just a mile away, however, collapsed into the surf during a nor'easter in 2008. The story about it in the paper describe it as being built "5 years ago". That would mean it was built in 2003. If "the erosion has been most significant in the past 5 years", I would suspect there was NOT 400 feet of sand and dunes when that building permit was issued. And I highly doubt that was the only house built recently. Here is the link for that story:

Serendipity has had numerous problems already, having been condemned previously due to septic tank problems. They cannot (obviously) install another one with waves lapping around the pilings, so the house must be either moved or torn down. The had already been replaced 3 times before. You think that would have clued them? The people who bought it in 2003 are the gamblers, since the problems were glaring by that time.

The houses in South Nags head, I'm sure, were not standing that close to the water when they were built either. They look fairly new though. I don't think the surf was very far away. But it still points to the shortsightedness of owners and city planners when history has shown, over and over, the folly of building in the sand. It seems the potential tax revenue takes precedence over common sense and financial responsibility.

Thanks for your response.

Kathy said...

In fact, look at this to see the house and road after the November Nor'easter.

The house has been bought and will be moved - TO ANOTHER OCEANSIDE LOT - by spring.

Marilyn said...

Very interesting. Thanks for braving the cold, wind and sand to take the pictures so that you could share with us.