FEMA, coast officials buying flood-prone community

Published 6:40 pm Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Jackson County and FEMA are purchasing the lots of a coast community with plans to return the area to the wild.

Demolition began last week on 14 homes in the Pecan community as part of a mitigation plan that began in 2005, said Michele Coats, county planning director.

“We have about 100 to go,” Coats said, referring to the remaining lots.

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When Hurricane Georges hit in 1998, most homes in the Pecan community flooded. That’s when the county began in earnest to help the community’s residents.

It’s a process FEMA is taking systematically as the county has each homestead appraised, surveyed and the elevations certified. It’s a voluntary program.

County planners said it is hard to sell flood-prone property. Once the 300 acres are acquired, Coats said the county plans to turn the land over to the state to add to the nearby wildlife refuge near the Alabama state line.

Sidney and Stephanna Brown watched last week as heavy equipment roared through the house they’d built in 1991.

It was not a sad time, Stephanna said. They have a new home in Franklin Creek. They used their retirement savings and a lot of sweat equity to build it, but all the hard work paid off three months ago when FEMA bought the two houses they owned in Pecan.

The newer of the two houses held them during Katrina.

“Two years ago today, we were sitting on the banisters on the porch after the storm,” she said. “Though it was receding, water in the house made it too claustrophobic. But you could sit on the porch.”