Homeowners Cope With Soggy Ceilings, Flooded Basements

WHAT happened to one house in Charleston's historic downtown illustrates why out-of-town repairmen, who now crowd this city's normally tourist-laden motels, expect to stay here until Christmas. The house is a substantial two-story structure on South Battery Street, one block from where hurricane Hugo's 135-m.p.h. winds and 15-foot tides pounded ashore on Charleston's southern tip.

At first glance the property appears to have come through reasonably well, except for a downed tree and concrete wall in the yard, and a section of roof that was blown away. The owner considers himself fortunate.

But wind-driven rain poured through the hole in the roof, soaking bedding, rugs, and ceilings. The soggy ceilings are starting to collapse and must be replaced; already a bathroom ceiling has fallen.

A surge of sea water soaked the basement and the lower portion of the first floor, ruining every major appliance and requiring a rewiring of the first floor.

Like many recent upper middle-income home buyers in downtown Charleston, this owner has federal flood insurance. His bank required it before approving the mortgage. Thus costs to repair his house will be relatively easy to bear.

The dislocation will be harder. His children are now staying with grandparents nearly 100 miles away. He wants electricity and appliances to be working before they return home.

Best estimates are that it will take until the end of the year to put everything back to in order in this one house.

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