Friday, October 19, 2007

I Want to Take You Higher - Boom shaka-laka-laka

Sly and the Family Stone.

Great song, but not the subject of this post.

I've been observing recovery in and around my neighborhood. I've noticed a few things.

My neighborhood has mostly recovering, there is a lot of ongoing construction. A few houses have been demolished and a few houses haven't been touched. Probably 85% of the houses are occupied, if not totally complete.

Across the street is a different neighborhood and a different story. Many houses have not been touched. A few are under construction although more are being started every week. Only a few are being elevated, I understand that and, in spite of my friend Tim's opinion, I conditionally agree with it.

The thing is there has been much discussion of what the Base Flood Elevation is. Unfortunately FEMA has again taken the cowardly way out. They have simply mandated that all new construction meet the existing (pre-Katrina) Base Flood Elevation or be located three feet above the highest adjacent natural grade (whatever that is), whichever is higher. My own opinion is that a uniform absolute minimum floor elevation for the entire City of New Orleans should have been established, but that would make too much sense.

In my neighborhood we are an AO zone subject to "sheet flooding". We were supposed to be 18" above the highest adjacent natural grade. My house predated NFIP. It is only 12 inches above the highest adjacent natural grade, according to my flood post-K certificate. Unfortunately there is no adjacent natural grade, my house is built on filled lake bottom. The determination of the "highest adjacent natural grade" seems arbitrary and inexplicable.

I had 3 and 1/2 feet of water in my house. I was lucky. It's hard for me to see that had I been 6 inches higher there would have been much less damage. Even meeting the new higher requirement would have resulted in about 1 and one half feet of water in our house. The damage would have been virtually identical.

The thing that killed us was the inability to quickly mitigate the damage, mostly throw out the damaged contents and open the doors and windows. Doing that within a few days would have dramatically reduced the damage. When we finally got in early simply opening the doors, throwing out the upholstered furniture allowed the house to dry out in a few days.

I have made the rational decision to restore my house to its original condition and hope it is another 50 years before it is flooded again. If it is significantly less than that I'll collect my insurance and move on.

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