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SEA BRIGHT: UPLIFTING IDEAS FROM KATRINA

Rod Scott addresses Sea Bright residents on post-hurricane home-elevation techniques. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Sea Bright residents were greeted with a bit of southern flavor and optimism Wednesday night in the form of two men from the Gulf Coast who guided their communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Tommy Longo, ex-mayor of Waveland, Mississippi, and a home-elevation expert made presentations at the latest in a series of post-storm town hall meetings held in the aftermath of the Hurricane Sandy’s devastation.

Longo, who called his small beach town “ground zero for Hurricane Katrina,” saw more than 95 percent of Waveland destroyed, with the loss of approximately fifty lives.

“There were 32 homes on my street, and now seven years later, there are only three,” said Longo, who served as mayor for 16 years. “Our town was very much like Sea Bright in a lot of ways, before and after the storm. Believe me, I know what you are going through.”

Longo said in Katrina’s aftermath he served as an unofficial spokesman for the hurricane-ravaged gulf region, appearing before Congress, frequently meeting with then-President George W. Bush, and working extensively with CNN. The network even provided Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long with his number, as part of a resource list, he said.

“We have been phone buddies for a couple months now,” Long told redbankgreen, “And now we finally get to meet in person. He came here, straight off the plane from Newark.”

When asked what he hopes to accomplish by visiting Sea Bright, Longo said he wants to  inspire the residents and local-government by sharing his own experiences in hurricane recovery, and to let them know that others have been through trying times like these before.

“These people are in it, every day fighting.” He said. “I wanted to come here and share my experience with people who are currently going through some of things we went through, and also try and use all my resources to bring some aid and attention to the area – anything I can do to help.”

Also on hand was home elevation expert Rod Scott, owner of L+R Resources of Mandeville, Louisiana, who gave a presentation to the residents entitled ‘Elevation 101,’ based on his experience working in the post-Katrina gulf.

Scott offered residents insights into the mostly voluntary but highly recommended process of raising their homes in accordance with the new Federal Emergency Management Administration standards the borough is in the process of adopting. Scott said that Louisiana and much of the gulf region went through a very similar transformation after Katrina hit.

“Katrina was our Sandy, and Sandy was your Katrina,” he said, before the packed audience in the community center. “They were the major events that made elevation a part of our area’s construction. The truth is that we are going to have to change the way we live next to the water in our current climate. Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s a wonderful place to have a home, but we must be prepared for that one percent of times when Mother Nature gets angry.”

Scott went over some different methods that homeowners can use to raise their property – methods that vary from home to home, depending on situation and structure – and specifically emphasized the need for lengthy professional consultation when undergoing a project of this size, including a six-point methodology to choosing a suitable contractor.

“Make sure you’re contractor has proof of license, proof of liability insurance policy, proof of cargo insurance, a unified jacking machine, lengthy experience with the unified jacking machine, and that the company has a clean history without numerous lawsuits – which is always a big warning sign,” he said.

Scott said that the use of a unified jacking machine is particularly important because it is the most modern and effective method of jacking up a house, and that more primitive methods can damage buildings – particularly older buildings like the ones in Sea Bright, as a result of stress caused by unleveled lifting.

He estimated that the jacking aspect alone would cost somewhere between $13 to $17 per square foot of the base of the house, with the auxiliary costs depending on the individual contractors – another reason, according to Scott, to shop around and compare prices per contractor.

Long commented that the borough may hold a workshop session at which contractors and residents could meet, in order to make connections, compare prices, and see what options were available.

“We are very grateful for the chance to learn from people who have walked this road before,” Long said, referring to Longo and Scott. “It’s very important they are actually in Sea Bright, and able to see and judge what happened with their own eyes.”

Longo admitted he was a natural pessimist, but he had some positive words for the crowd in attendance before the session broke for the night.

“Sometimes, it can get a little bleak out there; I know I had some days where I broke-down,” he said. “But I want to tell my story, and share my experiences. People have been through this before, and Sea Bright will get through it, too.”

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