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Tybee Island raising homes after storm damage

Tuesday is the first official day of the 2021 Hurricane Season, and homeowners on Tybee Island...
Tuesday is the first official day of the 2021 Hurricane Season, and homeowners on Tybee Island are racing to finish up major projects before it’s too late.(WTOC)
Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 4:53 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Tuesday is the first official day of the 2021 Hurricane Season, and homeowners on Tybee Island are racing to finish up major projects before it’s too late.

It’s a bit of a race against mother nature and a Tybee Island woman’s home improvement project. And when we say project - it’s a major undertaking: raising her whole home so hurricane flooding won’t ever impact her again.

Two feet of water in homes and in some spots more around Tybee - Hurricane Irma was devastating to those in the floodplain.

“When we saw somebody in a boat out on the street, we thought it’s not going to be good,” said homeowner Susan Hill.

Susan Hill has lived on Tybee for 21 years. She said Matthew was rough but Irma’s storm surge ruined their home.

“We had to start tearing everything out,” she said. “I had 50 percent damage, and that’s what made me eligible.”

Eligible for the FEMA grant to raise her ranch home in the air. Of the twelve original grant winners, one is finished, Susan’s and another house are in the air, and the rest are in the works.

Now even though Susan’s home didn’t start being raised more than two years after Irma hit, she said everything was going smoothly with the project until COVID put a pinch on lumber prices.

Assistant City Manager George Shaw says it’s a slow process but patience should pay off.

“Insurance is ridiculous when you’re on the ground. Roughly 10 years, and you’ve paid off the coast of elevating your home, just through insurance saving, so for that reason, it’s worth it,” Shaw said.

Susan’s home is already appraising at nearly 70 percent more now that’s it’s twelve feet off the ground.

“The grant is a gift an absolute gift from the city of Tybee,” she said.

Susan may not have gone through the process since her husband died a few months after Irma, but she believes it’s what he wanted.

“Keep hanging in here.”

And while Susan’s home will be finished well into the 2021 hurricane season, others may not want to start the process.

“The folks that don’t get up in the air in the near future may want to wait ‘til the hurricane season passes,” Shaw said.

The Assistant City Manager says he’s applied for another round of grants - which would allow for 50 additional homes to be raised on the Island.

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