“I Didn’t Realize How Vulnerable it Was”

May 13, 2022

“I didn’t realize how vulnerable it was.”
Gravestone inscription for human civilization.

Buyer of one of the now-famous beach houses that got swept away this week on North Carolina’s Outer Banks was a 57 year old male real estate agent. Fox News viewer? What are the odds?

Washington Post:

Ralph Patricelli had grand plans for the vacation home at 24235 Ocean Drive in Rodanthe, on a spit of land in the middle of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

He and his sister purchased the four-bedroom waterfront home in August for $550,000. With its airy rooms, two levels of decks and stunning Atlantic views, Patricelli envisioned it as an ideal spot to welcome friends and family after two years of an isolating pandemic. After the season’s last renters departed, he and his relatives had planned to host a Thanksgiving gathering in the home.

Instead, Patricelli never spent a night there.

A November storm affected the septic system, he said, and county officials soon deemed the house unfit to occupy. On Tuesday, less than 300 days after he bought it, the house became one of two along Ocean Drive to collapse into the sea after days of battering from an unnamed coastal storm.

“I was so looking forward to having a place where I could entertain and be back to normal,” Patricelli, a 57-year-old real estate agent in California who grew up on the East Coast, said in an interview.

“I didn’t realize how vulnerable it was,” he added.

Patricelli’s home was swept away overnight, but video of his neighbor’s house succumbing to the ocean went viral this week. That neighbor, who lives in Tennessee, declined to comment when reached by phone. A third nearby home met the same fate in February.

“It was a shock,” Patricelli said of the call he received that his house was gone. He later texted photos from before and after the collapse, writing, “Now there is absolutely nothing there — it’s all been taken by the sea — we basically have a vacant lot.”

The precarious nature of homes along the Outer Banks and other barrier islands is nothing new. Nor is the willingness of some Americans to stomach the risks posed by hurricanes and other natural disasters in exchange for homes and investments in desirable locations.

But the episode on the Outer Banks this week highlights a problem likely to deepen as climate change worsens.

For a variety of reasons, Americans continue to flock to disaster-prone areas of the country, despite growing risks of floods, fires and other catastrophes. And as sea levels rise, storms intensify and heat waves grow hotter, even places that once seemed relatively free of risk could face more serious threats to health and homes.

Few people were less surprised by the latest house collapses in Rodanthe than David Hallac, superintendent of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

“What was surprising to me is that they lasted as long as they did,” he said in an interview Thursday. “This is a rapidly eroding area … [and] I don’t have any reason to believe that erosion will stop. If anything, the scientists I’ve spoken with and publications I’ve read suggest that erosion will be exacerbated by sea level rise.”

Patricelli knows that some people might consider him unwise for buying a home at the ocean’s edge, where erosion is a known problem, hurricanes are an annual threat and sea levels are rising.

He said that the sellers disclosed ways they had tried to shore up the house, and that he purchased flood insurance, which appears to be required given the property’s location. He said he was not sure how much insurance would pay on his loss.

Until the house fell, Patricelli said, he and his sister were in the process of having it relocated farther from the waves, but they ran out of time.

“I knew there was some risk living near the water, but I certainly didn’t think I’d lose the house within eight or nine months,” he said, adding, “I was aware that erosion was happening there. I was not aware of the rate that it was happening. … We really thought we were going to be able to move the house and save it.”


2 Responses to ““I Didn’t Realize How Vulnerable it Was””

  1. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    I didn’t realize how vulnerable it was.
    Gravestone inscription for human civilization.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    People see the house wash away or burn or get flooded, and make the association. People depending on the power and water from the Hoover and Glen Canyon dams live in houses hundreds of miles from the site, and want to build more.

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