USA: Residents return to find homes damaged or destroyed for second time

Written by Lesly C. Simmons , Staff Writer,

Friday, July 15, 2005 - PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla.--Jamie and Julie Smith were two weeks away from moving back into their home on Pensacola Beach-until Sunday. After spending the last ten months rebuilding the home devastated by Hurricane Ivan last September, Jamie returned after Hurricane Dennis to find many of the repairs undone by the latest storm to come through this coastal community.

"We haven't been here since Ivan hit," said Smith. "It's just unbelievable. Now we are a few more months away from being able to move back in."

All across Pensacola Beach the signs of Dennis' impact were clear. Everything from apartments to million dollar mansions took a hit, leaving insulation exposed in homes where drywall was blown to bits by 100 mile per hour winds, and sand dunes now stand where streets and driveways belong.

Throughout the area-Pensacola Beach, Navarre Beach, Ft. Walton Beach-residents came back after Dennis to find many of their homes damaged or destroyed for the second time.

"Most of our neighbors were like us. They were just about ready to move back in, and this happens," Smith said. "I haven't seen too many of them back out here yet. I think people are worried about coming back to see their homes ruined for a second time."

The Smiths have made Orlando their home away from home whenever a hurricane approaches.

"Last time we couldn't even get out here to see our homes for three weeks after Ivan because the power was out," said Smith. "At least Orlando is somewhere we can stay for a while."

Smith said things aren't quite as bad from Dennis as they were after Ivan, but the damage is still significant. Last time they lost their whole roof whereas this time they lost the roof only in the back of the house.

Despite the damage and continued storms, the Smiths have no plans to move-yet.

"We've lived in this house for ten years, I think we'll stick it out," he said. "I know people probably think it's crazy that we live out here, but for our whole lives growing up in Pensacola, storms never came our way. It seems like as soon as my wife and I decided to live in our dream home on the beach, all the storms are coming our way."

The next step is continuing the renovations to make the house livable once again.

"It's just hard to find good labor now," said Smith. "The contractors are generally busy anyway, and with all these storms the best ones are just overwhelmed. We had someone try to scam us last time around, so it's like a full time job to make sure the work is done right. I'm ending up doing a lot of it myself and getting help when I can."

A few blocks away, Scott Perri was lamenting the damage Dennis caused at both his home and his job. Perri began renting a ground floor apartment a few months ago, and came home after Dennis to find his whole house filled with a layer of mud about a foot deep.

"I tried to clean it up, but it's still such a mess I don't know what I am going to do," said Perri. "On top of all this, I work in a restaurant out here on the beach, and we are going to be closed for at least two weeks."

While the cleanup continues, many Gulf residents were sweating over the thought of Hurricane Emily brewing, but it now appears that the latest hurricane of the 2005 may miss Florida entirely.

"I'm glad to hear that," said Smith. "I wouldn't wish that on anyone, but I think we deserve a break around here."


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