River Community Lifting Houses & Spirits

By raising their houses, some Gulfport residents hope to lift the spirits of neighbors wrestling with the idea of moving away. Hurricane Katrina pushed water from the Biloxi River into many homes on and around River Road Drive.

The new flood elevations recommended by FEMA are not yet mandatory but some homeowners say they don't want to wait to rebuild and risk their community dying out.

"This is the highest one yet," said house mover Danny Williams.

Inch by inch. Block by block. Many of the homes along River Road Drive are getting a boost up.

D & T of Mississippi owner Danny William said, "We've got probably 8 or 9 or 10 contracts right now and it's waiting on paperwork and stuff to get going on. We already lifted four houses in this neighborhood, and we've got a couple more we need to lift up."

After Katrina submerged his house, Neil Resh decided to go from 12 feet above sea level to nearly twice that at 23 feet. He wanted to do it as soon as possible.

Neil Resh said, "I think we don't need to wait any longer. We need to go ahead and start moving and bringing these people back together so we can get some normalcy back to the life style out here."

Resh says some of his neighbors were thinking about moving but, then they leaned about a $30,000 federal grant that could help pay the coast of elevating their homes.

"We got the money and the permits," said Resh. "That's when everybody started seeing what was going on when we started doing the first house and they chose to get the money and go ahead and raise their house too."

Those living in FEMA trailers have another reason to get their homes raised quickly. Neighbors say Spring rains often bring several feet of water here.

Homeowner Patrick O'Neal said, "When the street goes under and you're unable to get in and out with a car, I'm worried about being in a trailer and the trailer actually going under."

Not all the homes in the neighborhood are going up to the new FEMA guideline of 23 feet above sea level. Until that becomes law, people can building at the current elevation level of a little more than 16 feet.