Cameron Parish home tour to feature Hurricane Ike survivors May 17

Dusty Zaunbrecher, Attaway, Denise, Richard, Cynthia C.  |  5/12/2009 9:47:50 PM

CAMERON, La. – Newly built-to-code houses that have already survived one hurricane will be featured in this year’s Cameron Parish Tour of Hurricane-resistant Homes.

The tour will be held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, May 17.

Houses on the tour were built to replace houses destroyed when Hurricane Rita ravaged southwest Louisiana in 2005. Hurricane Ike slammed in to the Gulf in 2007, resulting in a surge as high, or higher, than the surge brought on by Hurricane Rita.

The newly built houses survived Ike, and the owners are eager to show others how to build along the Gulf Coast, said Cindy Richard, an LSU AgCenter agent.

“We want to show the public they can live in coastal regions as long as they build safer, stronger and smarter,” Richard said. “And, because the houses on this year’s tour have already survived one storm surge, we believe people participating in the tour will benefit even more.”

The selected houses have been built to meet hurricane-resistance requirements of the Louisiana residential building code, which took effect in March 2006 for coastal parishes and statewide on Jan. 1, 2007.

“Each house on the tour features building practices designed to make the house better able to withstand hurricanes and other weather-related events,” said Dusty Zaunbrecher, another LSU AgCenter agent who helped organize the tour.

One house that is on this year’s tour belongs to Dave and Debbie Savoie. It is an elevated structure that replaced their original house, which was on a slab. The new house has cinder block pilings and a 5-foot chain wall all around. The siding is made of durable vinyl. A gas-operated on-demand tankless water heater heats water for the home, and blown-in closed-cell insulation is used to make the house more energy-efficient. The Savoies also have an elevator for their son who is in a wheelchair. The elevator cost $17,500.

“The elevator was paid for by the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities,” Debbie Savoie said. “We contacted them because our new house was going to be elevated and we knew we would have to have an elevator for Jeremy. And they came through for us.”

Nicky and Stephanie Rodrigue also will have a house on the tour. The Rodrigue house is a 2,500-square-foot structure that sits on pilings made of Sonotube concrete forms wrapped with fiber cement siding for decoration. Break-away walls and foundation flood vents are in the garage.

“We had 52 inches of water from Hurricane Ike,” Nicky Rodrigue said. “We had to replace all of the doors on the lower floor in the garage, but our living area survived.”

The Rodrigues have two heating, ventilation and air conditioning units to serve the house. They also have a tankless on-demand water heater and spray foam insulation.

Another house on the tour is Don and Nena Menard’s. Their house was on a slab when Hurricane Ike hit. The hurricane pushed about 32 inches of water inside the house. Once the floodwaters subsided, the Menards had the house elevated.

“We had an engineer design a foundation that would match the windspeed and soil type for our area,” Don Menard said. “We are required to have the house raised 7 feet. We had it raised 11 feet, 1 inch.”

The fourth house on the tour belongs to Cecil and Leslie Clark. They attended home buyer education classes held at the LSU AgCenter’s Calcasieu Parish office. Their new house was built by workers with Habitat for Humanity.

“I would encourage everyone to attend these classes even if they are not buying a house,” Cecil Clark said. “These classes are very educational and informative. I attended some of the classes, such as the classes on credit, twice. I really enjoyed attending these classes.”

The Clarks live about a mile from the Gulf Coast. Their new, elevated house was built when Hurricane Ike blew in.

“All Ike did was wash away a little dirt from under the house,” Cecil Clark said. “Other than that, we came out just fine.”

Proper elevation and insulation techniques are just a few of the many features that will be seen during the tour. Dr. Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor and director of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, said information provided during the tour will give the public vital knowledge needed for helping rebuild a stronger Louisiana.

“The Cameron Parish Tour of Hurricane-Resistant Homes allows the LSU AgCenter to partner with parish residents who have incorporated practical and affordable best building practices into their post-Rita rebuilt houses,” Coreil said.

“Building houses that are resistant to high winds, mold, moisture, flooding and termites as well as energy efficient makes sense in coastal Louisiana,” he added. “Through this tour, we hope to demonstrate these highly effective sustainable building concepts to the general public and increase the adoption and application of these concepts in houses that continue to be built as southwest Louisiana recovers.”

This is the second year for the tour, hosted by the LSU AgCenter and Cameron Parish residents. A tour was scheduled for September 2008 but had to be cancelled because a storm surge from Hurricane Ike made landfall in Cameron Parish, causing flooding and other problems.

“We had such a tremendous response from the public when we had this tour in 2007, we decided to hold another tour,” Richard said.

Byron “Goose” and Carla Richard’s house was on the first tour. Their house is an elevated structure that replaces the previous house that was built on a slab and was destroyed by Hurricane Rita. Their new house survived Hurricane Ike.

“Ike blew through, and we’re still standing,” Carla Richard said. “That’s proof in the pudding that elevation works. If people are going to live here, they’re going to have to elevate.”

Richard and the other homeowners said they are hopeful people will participate in the home tour and learn what they need to do to live along the Gulf Coast

“It is so peaceful out here,” said Nicky Rodrigue, who is not originally from Cameron Parish. “It’s a nice area. The people are friendly and we wouldn’t think of living anywhere else.”

Debbie Savoie agrees.

“We want everyone to come back,” she said. “This is a great place to live. There’s no other place like it.”

For driving directions to each house, or for more information, call Dusty Zaunbrecher at 337-475-8812. An information center will be located in Cameron at 180 Henry St., near the courthouse, on the day of the event.

The weekend also will include a free Community Rebuilding and Flood Protection Expo from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 16, at Grand Lake School. The expo is designed to teach homeowners how to protect their homes from damage caused by hurricanes and other weather-related occurrences.

The expo will include topics and exhibits regarding online mapping – flood zones, windspeed and ground elevation – money to elevate; the National Flood Insurance Program and Increased Cost of Compliance; soils and elevation certificates; a discussion on Road Home properties purchased by the state; and The Next Storm, a surge modeling slide presentation.

A panel of permit officials from Calcasieu and Cameron parishes and continuous demonstrations of correct installation techniques for doors, windows, siding and roofs also will be available.

Representatives of the State Fire Marshall’s office and the Southwest Area Home Builders Association will be on hand to discuss manufactured-home installation and the importance of finding the right contractor.

Photos of houses on the tour can be found here.

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