When Albert Darda bought his brick and wood frame home in 1978, he knew flooding was a possibility. A long-term resident of the Lafitte area, he has watched the slow disintegration of the Louisiana coastline over the years. Based on that fact, and his experience, he knew the only way to escape flooding was to elevate his home above future flood levels. The challenge was he also knew that only his local officials could help him access the FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) that would help him get there.
Before he even got to this point, however, he experienced the true damage of water.
In 2005, Hurricane Rita inundated his house with two inches of water. Darda gutted and repaired his home with the help of a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policy claim that he had purchased and maintained since 1978.
Hurricane Ike struck the Louisiana coast in 2008 as a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, just as Mr. Darda had almost recovered from Hurricane Rita. The storm produced a damaging, destructive and deadly surge across the upper Texas and southwest Louisiana coasts.
Hurricane Ike practically destroyed Mr. Darda’s home by pushing two feet of water through the structure. He was able to access a Disaster Assistance Loan from the Small Business Administration to supplement his flood insurance payout, but he knew this was a stop-gap solution. Elevating his home was the only hope of avoiding future flood damage.
“I will not leave my home. This is where I choose to live because this is my community,” Darda stated. “I love my community, so I knew I had to work with my officials to get my home elevated out of harm’s way.” So, what did he do? “I insisted my home be elevated six feet above the Base Flood Elevation, which means 10 feet above the ground.”
The HMGP is a state-managed program using federal funds for mitigation projects following a federally declared disaster. Hazards identified by the community form the basis for projects, this includes local partners, funding opportunities, and specific options to address specific needs. Development of this mitigation grant identifies hazards that need to be addressed and include local partners and funding opportunities.,
To make this mitigation action a reality, Mr. Darda applied through his local government for the funding for elevating his home. Contacting three companies, Mr. Darda obtained bids for the cost of the elevation and chose an elevation company. The local community chose this elevation project for funding allowing Mr. Darda to move forward.
The process took five years.
The scope of work included the elevation of the structure itself, as well as the Heating, Air Conditioning and Ventilation (HVAC) system, the outlets, the hot water heater system, and other interior elements.
The cost was approximately $200,000 to elevate his home. His share was 20%, equaling $40,000 and the federal share through the HMGP was $160,000.
What was Mr. Darda’s commitment? He agreed to keep the lowest part of the structure free from obstructions. Obstructions include enclosing the area underneath his home, placing equipment such as a hot water heater, HVAC system or fill dirt. He has kept this commitment and as a result the four feet of water surging in from Hurricane Ida flowed freely under his home, causing no flood damage.
Did Hurricane Ida damage his home? Unfortunately, yes. On August 29, 2021, When Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, coinciding with the 16-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, as a strengthening Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, the storm delivered a devastating blow to his roof. This damage allowed some water into his home. The roof now must be repaired.
His plan? Mr. Darda will fortify his roof with wind clips and straps when replaced, further reducing his risk from wind damage.
Will all the changes Mr. Darda made to his home mean he will never sustain damages from Mother Nature again? Only time will tell, but Mr. Darda will be ready for the next hurricane or windstorm because he fought to mitigate his home. He has gained the peace of mind that his home is insured against flood damage, and he is employing even more actions in the present to reduce future damages to his home.
The point of this story? Mitigation works! Protect your home and investments. Mitigation can keep natural hazards, like flooding, tornadoes, and hurricanes, from having catastrophic impacts.
- The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program is available after federally declared disasters; however, the state decides what projects get prioritized.
- Talk to your local officials if you are interested in pursuing a grant:
- Property Owners and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program
- Hazard Mitigation Grant Program
- Small Business Administration’s Disaster Loan Assistance Program may help in your recovery. They also offer Mitigation Assistance.