"Hard Decisions"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Saturday, May 5, 2018

In my last column, I described how Hurricane Irma impacted so many homeowners in my community.

I mentioned that some of my friends had to watch their homes they had lived in for many years be crushed. They were not habitable, unable to be saved because the extreme conditions of salt water immersion and mold had taken over. Some of the homes had trees fall on them during the storm and repeated, intense rainstorms that followed flooded their homes.

Everyone had to make tough decisions, total replacement or rebuilding. Either choice involved removing damaged, destroyed property. This action involved cost and an extreme amount of hard work. If replacement was decided upon, even though builders may have had a stock of pre-made units, they still needed to be shipped to a local dealer who would deliver to you.

Before a new unit could be placed on a lot, the property had to be cleared and leftover material the storm had spread around removed. Some of the debris could have been from a long distance away. As homeowners traveled their neighborhoods, they were on the lookout for some of their property in adjacent yards.

When I was checking around my neighborhood I found outdoor chairs that had left my blown away porch, landed in the nearby canal, and floated over to a friend's dock. A small refrigerator also made the passage and my neighbor plugged it in hoping it may have survived the trip.

Those who chose to replace their homes had to make a plan of how to set it on the lot and do the additional job of reconfiguring all electrical, water and sewer connections. If rebuilding was the choice, items had to be removed and stored while repairs were being made. Just doing this equaled a major cost and storage facilities reaped large profits.

After the hurricane, contractors began arriving in the area as they do in any area devastated by major storms. They had their choice of places they wished to begin rebuilding. Business owners, anxious to reopen and resume earning a living were perhaps first in line.

They made offers to pay generously for a chance to make it back to a, "We are open" status quickly before the tourist left the area.

I would like to say supplies were abundant and service people were eager to help everyone but that was just not the case. It's obvious in the affluent areas along the ocean shores those homes that would generate the greatest profit would be worked on first.

There were many of them, the hurricane did not discriminate among the expensive mansions and modest homes of lessor value. Much of the material that could be obtained nearby was poor quality and trying to get contractors to respond to inquiries for quotes to rebuild were hard to come by.

People who arrived at their homes promptly after the storm were able to secure available contractors to work for them. Seven months later it is sad to learn destroyed homes are still lying along the major roadway, awaiting the crushers or haulers.

Debris, furniture, boats and cars are scattered along beaches and in canals. Wooded areas are loaded with unknown materials thrown there by the storm or by those not knowing where to put it. Many homes are partially gutted awaiting someone to work on them, blue roofs are also abundant the length of the Keys.

As I see it, a tough decision indeed had to be made, rebuild or replace. Because my home was solidly built, and its exterior intact, I chose to rebuild. What a long, costly process that has been but as the ninth month approaches, the end is in sight.

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