LINCROFT, N.J. -- Frederick Ziegler promises his rebuilt house in Point Pleasant Beach will be just as spotless as he left his FEMA mobile home at Green Acres Manor in Howell Township.
Ziegler, a 78-year-old retired radio and electronics repairman who has been living in FEMA housing since Hurricane Sandy almost destroyed his house, is finally going home. Two feet of water flooded his home, causing his heating oil tank to rupture. Some oil mixed with the floodwaters and some seeped through the flooring into the subfloors, making cleanup difficult. It even got into the rain boots of the volunteers working to clean it up. (Kitty litter absorbed most of the oil inside the house.) Meanwhile, the oil tank filled up with salt water. The water damage in the home created mold that had to be removed. The cellulose insulation in the first floor walls collapsed below the water line, but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the insulation sealed off the walls, preventing the oil from getting into them.
After the storm, Ziegler moved in with his then-fiancée for the first four weeks, and then moved to his brother’s home in Point Pleasant Borough, not far from the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in Bay Head. “It was right across from St. Paul’s Methodist Church, which was serving three meals a day (to survivors),” he recalled. He couldn’t remain at his brother’s because he developed health issues related to his brother’s cats, so he moved into a FEMA-provided mobile home in January 2013. “I like the trailer better,” he joked.
While he was living in the mobile home he could work on getting his home repaired. Calvary Chapel sent two groups of volunteers – one from Wisconsin and one from Boston – to tear out the walls and floors. A team of Mennonites from western Pennsylvania put down the new subfloor. Jersey Shore United outfitted the house with new appliances from Home Depot. Volunteers were helping Ziegler rebuild through the end of March 2014. FEMA paid for cleaning and sanitizing as well as the complete replacement of the home’s electrical system. FEMA also covered part of the cost of replacing the home’s plumbing.
Ziegler’s rebuilt home is not elevated – yet. Point Pleasant Beach had been classified as being in a Special Flood Hazard Area A-zone before Sandy hit. It was changed to a V-zone, then back to an A-zone in August 2013. Elevation is recommended, though not explicitly required, for homes in A-zones.
Ziegler is on the state’s Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program’s waiting list for elevation funding.
Ziegler credited FEMA with connecting him to Catholic Charities and the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group, which helped him find the resources he needed to repair his home. He was both grateful and pleasantly surprised by how much overall assistance they offered. “I remember thinking, ‘Do they really want to help that (much)?’” he said. “But they’ve been great.”
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