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Under the ruins of Mexico Beach stands a house built "for the big one"



MEXICO BEACH, Florida – When they built their dream home on the glittering sands of the Gulf of Mexico last year, Russell King and his nephew, Dr. Lebron Lackey, carefully drilled every detail of the raised construction from the 40-foot-pier into the ground to the types of screws drilled in the walls. They chose bright colors from a palette of coastal colors, chose salt-tolerant species to plant in the beach dunes, and named their creation the Sand Palace of Mexico Beach.

They also installed an outdoor surveillance camera. His video footage became the sole view of their holdings when Hurricane Michael thundered ashore last week, the most intense storm recorded in the history of the Florida Panhandle.

The camera showed a terrible tunnel of gray rage that worsened by the hour. Lackey, a 54-year-old radiologist, stared helplessly from more than 400 miles away at the corner of his roof.

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"It would vie like an airplane wing," he said of his Cleveland residence, Tenn. "I kept expecting it to break."

The story of how the Sand Palace came through while most of its neighbors collapsed is about how to build in hurricane-prone Florida and how the building regulations are catastrophically destroying the category 4 could not imagine. 19659002] Florida's Building Code, which came into force in 2002, is known to be stringent when it comes to storm resistance for homes built along the hurricane-prone Atlantic coast. But it's less so for structures along the panhandle, a region historically untouched by storms as strong as those that have slammed into southern Florida.

After Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 animal, devastated Miami-Dade County in 1992, new Construction in the southern part of the state had to withstand wind speeds of 175 miles per hour. In the coastal communities of Panhandle, which are affected by Michael, the requirement is lower, for 120 to 150 miles per hour, and the rules for certain types of reinforcement apply only for houses that are more than a mile off the coast 2007. Many of the residences and businesses Michael wiped out in Mexico Beach were much older; Rebuilding them to conform to the new code will be costly and some of the working class that has poured into Mexico Beach in the past will pay dearly. King would not say how much he and Dr. Lackey have spent to secure the cottage on the beach, which is taxable according to public records for a value of $ 400,000. Its architect, Charles A. Gaskin, said that building a house, as it did, roughly doubled the cost per square foot compared to normal construction practices.

Other experts had different views about the required expenditures. An estimate published in Forbes in 2012 states that the introduction of a series of storm resistance measures, including some of the measures advised by the Insurance Institute for Business and Households, would increase the cost of a typical home by more than $ 30,000 [196592002] " Every time something like that happens, you have to tell yourself, can we do something better? "Gov. Rick Scott told reporters when public officials were again asked to test the state's building standards. 19659011] "When I saw the wind speeds of this hurricane, I knew: one could only hope that there would not be too many fatalities," said Charlie Danger, a former Miami-Dade construction manager who advocated stricter storm codes. "It pays to rebuild structures that can withstand such a thing – they minimize the loss of life – and the loss of infrastructure – if you lose the infrastructure, you lose everything."

Dr. Lackey said that he and Mr. King, who jointly own the house of Mexico Beach, do not even refer to the minimum wind resistance required in Bay County. They built the Sand Palace to withstand wind speeds of 250 miles per hour.

The house was built of poured concrete reinforced with steel cables and reinforcing steel. Additional concrete reinforced the corners of the house. The space under the roof was minimized so that the wind could not penetrate underneath and lift it off. The elevation of the house should serve on high poles to keep it above the seawater surge that usually accompanies severe hurricanes.

"We think we need to build a house that will last for generations," Dr. Lackey

"I think the planet is getting warmer and the storms are getting stronger," said Mr. King, 68, a lawyer. "We did not have such storms, so people who live on the coast have to be prepared for it."

Although the family had the relief of knowing their home that they rent, if they do not use it for vacations themselves, Mr. King had stayed to see what damage the hurricane had done. He left Tennessee at 4am on Saturday and drove his dark blue Ford F-150 pickup south for more than seven hours – much longer than the journey would normally take, due to the closed roads and the chase of the crew – to be at the end Land to reach from 36th Street.

The siding that had wrapped itself around a staircase that gave access to the elevated house was gone, as was the staircase. But that was intentional: the architect of the family used renegade walls, which became vacant without destroying the structure. Now there was only a gaping hole and part of a railing, so the five-bedroom, five-bath house could only be reached by a ladder.

Mr. King tore up, scared of the fact that the structure had otherwise suffered only a little water damage and a broken shower window. Even the elevator in her house seemed untouched.

"We can do that in a month," he said. "But other people, I do not know, look at what these people have suffered."

The neighboring duplexes were wiped out. Three houses across the street were leveled on concrete slabs. A fourth house stood, but with a large part of the roof and some collapsed walls, a rescue team searched it. two tenants were missing after Mr. King. Also this house was built with hurricanes.

"It should be such a fortress," Mr. King said in disbelief.

He said he already owns a house on 42nd Street that still contains watermarks from Hurricane Opal, the 1995 storm that until a few days ago was a local benchmark for powerful hurricanes. Mr. King gestured from his deck, "It was down there and it's gone."

"This is the famous pier of Mexico Beach," he added, pointing to a pair of decapitated wooden poles sticking out of the water. [196592002Aufder36thStreetnördlichdesUSHighway98hattendiemeistenkleinenHäuserdenWindüberlebtwarenabervomWasserentkerntobwohlsiemehrereHäuserblocksvomStrandentferntwarenJohnHamiltonverbringteinenWochenendnachmittagdamitdunklenMüllausdemHausseinerSchwägerinSandraRichardsundihremEhemannJeffRichardszuschaufelndieinEufaulaAlalebenaberseitJahrzehnteninMexicoBeachUrlaubmachen[19659008] Paper towels in the highest kitchen cabinets were soaked. Fans on the ceiling, more than eight feet tall, were encrusted in the mud.

"I can not believe that I will not just cry my eyes," said Mrs. Richards, as her sister, Laura Hamilton, used a broken piece of door as a dump. "It is incomprehensible."

Mr. Richards noted that the pair built the house in 2004 with hurricane-resistant windows after the new nationwide code entered into force. "Look at the windows: they're all here," he said. "If the doors had held, we would probably have been okay."

"All those houses in Mexico Beach that were built in the 1970s are gone," said Mrs. Richards.

Dr. Lackey said much of the small town's charm came from its older homes and the relative lack of overdevelopment, compared with larger tourist destinations further west along the coast. During the celebration of July 4th, which celebrated Mexico Beach with fireworks at the pier, Dr. Lackey's 5 year old son Keaton snorkeling on the beach in front of the house.

"There was a subway" This was the only franchise restaurant in town, "he said." There were no traffic lights. It was nicknamed "Mayberry by the Sea."

Mr. King said he suspected Michael would spare the city, as other hurricanes had done.

"I said," It's going to change. They always do it. They're going to Cancun or somewhere, "he said.

But when the storm faltered, their youngest tenants brought the garden furniture in and oversaw a specialist hired by Dr. Lackey and Mr. King seal day before landfall – the kind of measure that Dr. Lackey readily recognizes is invaluable to most people in an emergency.The tenants ate at a beloved local seafood restaurant, Toucan, and then evacuated from the city.

They were probably the last people to eat there, "Dr. Lackey said of Toucans, who did not survive.

A few days after the storm, the interior of the impeccably decorated Sand Palace remained surprisingly cool, a feature of its concrete walls Said he hopes that Federal Emergency Management Agency salvage crews could benefit from using their staging structure.

"If FEMA wants the house, they can e s for a few weeks, "he said. "I will not complain about anything."


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