On the Jersey shore, emotion outweighs cost of rebuilding

Fri Nov 2, 2012 1:02am EDT
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By Dave Warner and Ben Berkowitz

BAY HEAD, N.J./BOSTON (Reuters) - The people of the Jersey Shore may feel alone in the world right now, their homes destroyed and their beaches ruined by Hurricane Sandy. But they will soon face a decision familiar to others who have survived massive storms - do I rebuild?

There is a reason New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called the destruction Sandy wrought on the shoreline "unthinkable." The one-time vacation paradise, familiar to fans of Bruce Springsteen, is now a twisted wreck, with remnants of a roller coaster floating in the ocean, and houses erased like they were temporary markings.

"That's our resort, that's our Caribbean island, it's everything to us," said Rosemarie DiPisa, a New Jersey realtor who has a home on the barrier island community of Lavallette - at least, she did. With no physical access to the island, she won't know for at least two weeks if her house is still there.

In the days and weeks to come, there will inevitably be a debate about whether there is any point in trying to reconstruct what was lost, the same as in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward after Katrina or in parts of Miami after Andrew.

The cost of rebuilding quickly can be astronomical, especially as people compete for limited resources, with building equipment in short supply and a dearth of contractors.

Insurance is unlikely to cover the full cost of rebuilding and replacing damaged belongings, let alone other costs like renting another home to live in for a long period of time.

It would be one thing if there was a quick path to recovering that investment, but history shows there is not. After Hurricane Camille struck the Gulf Coast of Mississippi in 1969, it took a generation for homes in the area to appreciate enough to recoup reconstruction costs.

Just don't tell that to Jersey Shore locals.   Continued...

People walk on the beach past the remnants of the Spring Lake boardwalk which was damaged by Hurricane Sandy in Spring Lake, New Jersey, November 1, 2012. REUTERS/Adam Hunger