Gulfport Height Elevations Debated - - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport Height Elevations Debated

It's kind of hard to miss the Barrett Myers house. It's the one just past the weeds on Woodward Avenue in west Gulfport. The one with newly planted palm trees, and bright orange siding.

The colorful house belongs to Donna Myers' mother. Myers is living in a trailer right behind it.

Why orange?

"Since there was no Waffle House anymore for anybody to take directions, we figured this was the next best thing," she said.

Katrina dumped seven-and-a-half feet of water in the Woodward Avenue house. The interior was wet and moldy. But the structure survived. So Myers had contractors rebuild Mom's house on her slab, without raising it a single inch. Height was never a consideration.

"This structure was here. And we weren't going to do anything other than refurbish it and rebuild it they way it was," she said.

FEMA wants Gulfport to adopt stricter height elevation guidelines, so properties closer to the water are out of harm's way the next time a storm roars in.

"Because if you build higher," Ronald Jones of the Gulfport Planning Department said, "then you would be eligible to receive a lower flood insurance premium because you did more than the minimum requirements." 

According to Jones, FEMA is recommending a minimum 18 foot flood elevation for properties near Highway 90, and a 16 foot clearance near inland waterways. 

The city council is debating whether to follow FEMA's recommendations. Council members know that raising height elevations could be a financial burden for some of their constituents.  The council is supposed to vote on the height elevations at next Tuesday's meeting.

Myers would have listened to FEMA if her mom's house back there had a bit more damage.

"Obviously if I didn't have anything left on the slab, there is no way I would build back on the slab," she said. "I mean I'm not stupid, I'm not foolish. But you know when you have it intact, what do you do?"

You do what Myers did. You rebuild with orange paint, giving your home a beach feel, and announcing to the world that you're back.

"It's good motivation, don't you think," she asked.

by Brad Kessie

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