by Karly Taranto, staff writer
Grand Isle is home to about 1,460 people, many of whom are still recovering from Hurricane Ida’s devastation. It is also a second home for many camp owners, some of whom say they are debating whether to rebuild or demolish.
“We had about $80,000 in wind insurance, but rebuilding would cost over $250,000 with the cost of materials,” says camp owner Paul Hymel.
Hymel says he co-owned the camp with his brother, two uncles and grandmother. Following the hurricane, only the foundation stood in the place of what he says was once a second home for his family.
“My uncles and grandmother do not have much interest or need to have a camp there, so that leaves my brother and I to do anything with it,” says Hymel. “We just don’t have the time to do the construction and, frankly, do not have the know-how or people who could help us; not mentioning the cost it would take us to rebuild.”
The Federal Emergency Agency (FEMA) has strict requirements regarding the rebuilding process. A new policy requires coastal structures to be built 16 feet above the ground to protect them from wave and flood damage during natural disasters. The homes that did not meet the required elevation received less insurance money for the property destruction from Hurricane Ida.
The Hymel family’s camp is a 1950’s home that was elevated to 10 feet and has not been remodeled. Because of increased insurance costs due to their camp being below elevation requirements, the only insurance the family could afford was wind insurance. However, they did not receive enough money to consider rebuilding.Following the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, new building codes are being implemented. Height requirements and wind-proof building materials are now required, and insurance costs will increase for homeowners on the island.
Insurance adjusters are assessing homes to determine if rebuilding or repairing will be required for each home. If adjusters deem that a house is over 50 percent damaged, owners will be required to demolish.
“Because of the extent of damage, building codes becoming more stringent and cost of materials rising, I think you will see a lot more selling rather than rebuilding,” says insurance agent Chris Hogan. “The building codes will require more money, which will make it harder for people who own camps to rebuild on the island, especially if starting from scratch.”
Though organizations like the Bayou Community Foundation have raised over $4,000,000 to contribute to rebuilding and recovery, the significant increase in general building costs will leave an abundance of empty lots in Grand Isle.
Hymel says many camp owners who were left with nothing have discussed putting awnings on their property and bringing campers to the island instead of rebuilding.
“Options for us would be purchasing an older camp or rebuilding; either way it is extremely expensive or not worth it due to the risks of natural disasters in the future,” says Hymel. “Lots of memories were made on the island in our camp that no longer exists.”