MEMA cottages in flood zones must be moved by May 1

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - MEMA has sent a directive to hurricane victims living in RV parks.  If their cottages are in flood zones, they must be moved before the start of hurricane season.

That order has Ellen Thomas in a panic. Thomas owns the Oaklawn RV Park in Woolmarket.  Almost a year ago, 14 MEMA cottages were set up in the park, and 14 families moved in.  Now, MEMA has called Thomas' tenants to say they need to pack up and move to higher ground by May 1, 2009.

"I don't know that these people will have a place to live within the next month or two when they're told they have to be out," she said.

One of the MEMA cottage tenants at the Oaklawn park is Lois Ann Gutterman.

"I've been through so much.  I would just like somewhere to live and know that this is my home again," she said.

Gutterman thought the MEMA cottage in the back of the Oaklawn RV park she moved into five months ago had solved her housing issues.

"I'd like to stay here.  I don't want to move at all," she said.

That determination to stay was why Thomas was so bothered when she heard about MEMA's latest directive.

"I'm very concerned for the people.  Eventually the lots will rent, but these people have no where to go," said Thomas.

Thomas has owned this RV park property in Woolmarket for almost 40 years.  About a year ago, she allowed 14 MEMA cottages to blend in with the other manufactured home on her lot.

Now, in the eyes of MEMA, those cottages are in harm's way.  So, MEMA agents told the city of Biloxi it doesn't want cottages in flood zones past May first.

Jerry Creel is the Biloxi Community Development Director.

"If an owner has a commercial mobile home park, and there are Mississippi Cottages that are located in that commercial mobile home park, and they happen to be in the flood zone, they will not be allowed to stay," he explained.

Biloxi has 185 MEMA cottages within its city limits.  The ones on private property do not fall under MEMA's new directive.  It only focuses on the people who live in commercial parks.

"They're in tears because they're having to move once again," said Thomas.

Gutterman said those tears were the result of almost four years of post Katrina heartache.

"Would you like to move somewhere you don't want to be?" she wondered.

The cottages could be moved to spots on the park property that aren't in the flood zone.  However, the park has just two vacant lots.

They could be moved to permanent sites within the city, and then raised to appropriate levels.  But Gutterman says that's not as easy as it sounds.

"It's become very frustrating.  And I'm ready just to settle down and find somewhere to be," she said.

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