Owners of 'last house standing' part of peninsula's comeback
A 2008 photo shows the devastation that Hurricane Ike's sea surge left in Gilchrist. This elevated house survived.
July 26th, 2011
06:20 PM ET

Owners of 'last house standing' part of peninsula's comeback

Pam and Warren Adams aren't so lonely in Gilchrist, Texas, anymore.

In September 2008 they became known as the owners of the "last house standing," the only structure on Gilchrist's Gulf Coast side to have survived Hurricane Ike's massive sea surge, thanks to the stilt-like columns that lift the home 22 feet above normal sea level. (See the original iReport.) Now, the house still is the sole Gulf-side structure for several blocks, but there's been plenty of activity within shouting distance, on the narrow peninsula's other side.

New houses have been built in Gilchrist, and elsewhere on the Bolivar Peninsula, since the hurricane.

Perhaps three-dozen structures have been built or repaired on Gilchrist's East Bay side, across State Highway 87 from the couple's home, Pam Adams says. On the whole Bolivar Peninsula - a thin strip of land between mainland Texas and the Gulf where Ike reduced 5,500 homes and businesses to about 1,500 - about 3,000 homes and businesses stood with water service as of last month.

The Adamses not only stayed on the peninsula (it took them a year to repair damage to the home and make it habitable again), they doubled down. One of the new structures across the highway is their new restaurant, FantaSea BBQ & Grill, which they opened last year. Pam says it's one of about three businesses currently open in Gilchrist.

The couple returned to the home after a year of post-hurricane renovations.

"It's always been my fantasy to live on the beach, and it's been Warren's fantasy to run a barbecue restaurant, and all in all, we're both living out our fantasies out here," said Pam, 56, who helps run the restaurant on weekends when she's not working as a cost analyst in Houston.

Although the population is down, the peninsula still attracts beachgoers and fishermen, not to mention people using Highway 87 to get between Galveston and Louisiana. The restaurant, also run by 66-year-old Warren, a retired electrical designer, manages to attract plenty of people looking for barbecue, hamburgers, hot dogs and onion rings; it had 300 customers on July 23 alone, Pam said.

The couple's new restaurant sits across the street from their house.

The house may never have any immediate neighbors. Adjacent properties and more than 600 others on the peninsula were sold to the county under a buyout plan funded by FEMA, with the stipulation that no structure be built on those properties again. The arrangement frees people who didn't want to or couldn't rebuild, and reduces the number of future potential insurance claims in the flood-prone area.

But the peninsula still is seeing an average of 30 new building permits a month for new structures, and the county is investing in the area, with plans to rebuild three fire stations, elevate the highway and introduce sanitary sewer service to an area that had relied on septic tanks only, said John Simsen, Galveston County's emergency management coordinator.

Pam Adams enjoys being back at her beachside house. "Everything seems to be coming back," she said. "I'm really proud of all the strong, determined people down here."

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Filed under: Hurricanes • Texas • Weather
soundoff (198 Responses)
  1. Lisa

    Maybe rebuilding homes along there is wrong and they should be replanting Mangrove along there to protect the inland better from big storms?

    July 27, 2011 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      I said the same about New Orleans.

      July 27, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      There were never mangroves there.

      July 27, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • James

      Maybe it is wrong to rebuild after all natural disasters. Why rebuild after a hurricane.... Why rebuild after an earth quake, a tornado, a flood? Heck for that matter why rebuild after a fire sparked by lightning.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • James

      Where do you live, that your home is not ever threatened by nature? I thought natural disasters were possible just about any place on earth. Silly me...

      July 27, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • bob

      Some of you have trouble distinguishing between natural disasters that can strike anywhere without warning (earthquakes, fire caused by lightning) and recurring, predictable natural disasters such as hurricanes which pretty much go through the same areas each year. Outside of that, one can build a structure to withstand natural forces. They just need the money to do it. If you can't afford a hurricane proof house you better expect to lose everything or move inland.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • James

      And some don't seem to "get" that there are pro's and cons to every location. Below there are comments claiming Montana to be a good place because of the low probability of natural disasters. That is all just fine if you don't mind freezing your @$$ off for ten months out the year. That is a disaster in itself in my opinion.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dirty Joe

    There's a reason (it's called a hurricane) that all the other houses got destroyed.

    It's arrogant, selfish, and costly to all Americans for people to continue to build in areas that are prone to natural disaster.

    July 27, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      That would be (almost) everywhere...

      July 27, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Emilio Esteves

      Name a place that doesnt have natural disasters.

      July 27, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Boo Boo

      North and South Dakota are pretty safe bets.

      July 27, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Boo Boo

      My bad. I forgot about floods. But those are pretty infrequent.

      July 27, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Hades

      Montana is pretty safe, except from Blizzards.. or if the Yellowstone volcanoe blows, but if that happens half the nation is screwed.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Caitlin

      It is arrogent and selfish of you, Joe, to downplay the determination of American people to rebuild after a natural disaster. Hurricanes can never diminish the spirit of the people of the American Gulf Coast.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • razmataz

      So let's put all 200+ Million Americans in Montana, yeah, that'll work! Oooops, forgot about blizzards!

      July 27, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • blue

      Unlike hurricanes, a blizzard generally doesn't have the same effect on a town as a tactical nuclear weapon. Snow melts.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      @Boo Boo,
      Other than flooding, wildfires, wind (sometimes close to 100mph), blizzards, tornadoes (South Dakota still has the record for the most tornadoes in a 24 hour period), weeks of below 0 temps (sometimes goes with blizzards) and weeks of above 100 temps, there really are no natural disasters in the Dakotas.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Tha Chikin

      You really do not know what you are talking about.

      Hurricanes can hit anywhere along the coast and they don't just have storm surge. After Hurricane Andrew homes VERY FAR INLAND were completely flattened. I saw a church several miles from the beach completely ripped in half. Front of buildings tore off... entire neighborhoods that looked like a giant squashed them like a bug. SO by what you are saying the ENTIRE state of Florida, and several miles inland of every state South of the Mason Dixon shouldn't have homes? Are you smelling what you are shoveling?!

      There have always been hurricanes... as humans, our entire existence is precarious every single day. I for one will CONTINUE to live in hurricane alley... I have lived down here all my life. Granted, it isn't easy to be blown into the stone age in a matter of hours and be forced to live like that for months on end. But you know what, most of us down here are tough. Yeah you get those that complain about it but, the seasoned veterans vigoursly prepare before hand, pick up after, rebuild, move on and don't complain.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Hollywood South

      Dirty Joe, you need to punch yourself in the face every day for saying that. The whole country is prone to different kinds disasters. You know what I'm tired of? People like you constantly saying not to rebuild when you have no knowledge, background, or experience on the topic you are talking about–particularly with regrad to New Orleans. If New Orleans were not taken care of, the price of gasoline and almost ALL commodities would skyrocket; the cost of living would be impossible to keep up with. You and those like you are stupid, stupid, stupid.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • GT66

      Caitlin "It is arrogent and selfish of you, Joe, to downplay the determination of American people to rebuild after a natural disaster. Hurricanes can never diminish the spirit of the people of the American Gulf Coast."

      Ah yes, that "never give up and never think things through" philosophy that makes America dumber. I like some of the comments here as they really do show the stupidity of the American public: We might as well build in an area that has yearly hurricanes since it floods once every hundred years in the Dakotas so it's obviously the same risk (even though in the Dakotas, you can also choose NOT TO LIVE IN A FLOODPLAIN just the same). Brilliant in a purely American way!

      July 27, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Lilgtogirl

      Well said Dirty Joe!

      July 27, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. Bibi5

    I'm not sure that rebuilding is such a good idea, but I certainly understand loving where you live and not wanting to let mother nature chase you away. If an insurance company is willing to cover them and they don't mind paying through the nose for the coverage, then let them live out their dream.

    July 27, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
    • GT66

      Americans and common sense were never that good of friends anyway.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. Other PeoplesMoney

    It's always been my dream to not have to pay a percentage of my insurance and tax rates to support the fantasy of others....

    July 27, 2011 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
    • thomas

      Then don't buy insurance, and as for your taxes, plenty of government money gets spent helping people doing much more stupid stuff than living at the waters edge.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Marianne

      So you also carry and pay outrageous premiums for Texas Windstorm & Catastrophe Insurance and National Flood? You must live in a disaster prone area.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  5. DYLAN

    STATEMENT THAT THE HOUSE IS 22 FEET ABOVEGROUND IS WRONG..THIS HOUSE IS NO WAY THAT HIGH OFF THE GROUND.

    July 27, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • DYLAN

      I realize that it said 'above normal sea level' but, as you can see in the photo, the house stands at the same level as the sea (which appears to be at high tide).

      July 27, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Re-read. It doesn't say 22 feet above ground. It says 22 feet above normal sea level. My basement is probably over 100 feet above sea level and it's underground.

      July 27, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • rick

      the house is on stilts the bottom looks solid but water passes through

      July 27, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Jenn

      The house is off the ground...the bottom level is actually just a parking area. If you look at the 2nd pic of the house you can see the that house actually sits on what appears to be the 2nd level with open garage areas underneath.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. w

    I live in the area. All of these house are usually just beach cabins/homes that are used or rented during the summer months. Very few people actually live in any of the housing that was destroyed. Say what you will, but it's human tenacity that triumphs here...in that we have the will to stand against anything. You can only say "they should move away" until you have a vested interested. Should the people in Oklahoma move because Tornadoes destroy their homes?

    July 27, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. BJC

    This pic looks so fake to me.

    July 27, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      Your 'birth' was fake . Go ask your 'daddy' ...his name is Pyrex .

      July 27, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • no

      Your comment looks so fake to me.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Marianne

      Thousands of us that owned homes on the peninsula also wish this picture was fake. Unfortunately it is not.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  8. Yourloss

    True everywhere is prone to natural mother natures power but some are more so than others. Hence should this happen again, after the governement gave them buy out money not to build there and they are, there's no reason to put their burden and tears on the American public. Same holds true with people you build their homes next to an active volcano.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • JCMEE00

      So youre saying, that everyone that lives on the Gulf Coast should just pack up and move??? Think abt it

      July 27, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  9. Tha Chikin

    A similar thing happened to a friend of mine that had a house in South Dade County during Hurricane Andrew. A few years after the storm, I made friends with him. He had old school jalousie windows on his home and since I knew almost all the homes in that area were seriously damaged (and bulldozed), I inquired about it. He said a several block radius was entirely flattened... for some reason, his house was the only one left standing and didn't have any damage to it whatsoever. It's amazing how things like this can happen. Needless to say... he told me some of his neighbors were upset but, what can you do? Regardless, some of those that didn't have a place to go stayed with him until their homes were rebuilt.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. JCMEE00

    Were I live, on the Gulf Coast, we have Hurricanes, Tropical Storms, Tornadoes, Floods,,,ect. Yes my home was flooded from Ike and yes, I did rebuild. I will continue to rebuild. Its my home. No one understands until they have experienced it. 99% of people in my home town, lost theirs homes from Ike and some are still rebuilding. You dont see much coverage on our little town.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  11. Dakota

    One thing to remember here is that typically, flood insurance pays for the repairs of flood damaged homes. The money comes from the insurance premiums, none of it is from tax dollars.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  12. DPWEA

    I understand about the tenacity of people to rebuild, and I applaud that. Just don't ask me or anyone else to keep paying for it. If you want to live there, pay for it yourself.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. Sailor

    Arrogant, selfish and costly to build in areas prone to disaster?? I guess that covers most of the US population. Let's see – Northeast long overdue for major hurricane (think 1938) at Cat 4 along the Northeast would severely damage Mass, Conn, Rhode Island, most of Long Island, NY, New York City, New Jersey and Virginia coast. The Carolinas, Georgia and Florida are obvious. The entire Gulf Coast. Thats just hurricanes. Now go to West Coast – earthquakes and wild fires!! The entire major river valleys – floods!! What about tornadoes? As Emilio said – name a place that is not prone to natural disasters.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  14. Tom

    West Virginia is a pretty safe bet from natural disasters. No hurricanes, very few tornado threats, It snows sometimes, but nothing really major unless your in the high mtns, the only thing we worry about is floods. And they are far and few anymore.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. Charlene

    The Pic is real, i know my husbond helped fram that house. They should thank the company
    who build the house. Im am truly happy for Pam and Warron.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
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