On St Croix
Surviving and recovering from Hurricane Maria

[Le and Earl's damaged home]
Le and Earl's damaged home

[Le and Earl's damaged home]
Le and Earl's damaged home

[Earl Parson and Le Achenbach enjoy the deck on their new home]
Earl Parson and Le Achenbach enjoy the deck on their new home

When Hurricane Maria struck the US Virgin Islands on St. Croix in September 2017, Le Achenbach and Earl Parson's lives changed drastically. As Maria charged ashore, their home was picked apart and eventually succumbed to the ravages of hurricane force winds. Part of the roof was ripped off, windows imploded behind the hurricane shutters, decking around the house was demolished, and water intruded the house.

They did all the right things in preparation for the storm - they stocked up on food, battened down the hatches, and hoped for the best. As the storm got worse and the house started to give, they moved from room to room with their bird and four dogs seeking shelter. They watched as one of the walls "breathed" in and out with the gusty winds. Water was intruding their safe place, the house was shaking like it was an earthquake, and the door that was protecting them was in jeopardy of being ripped off its hinges. Le held that door for nearly three hours until fatigue gave way.

As the storm started to subside with daylight, Earl ventured out of their safe place to find an interior wall of the house ripped apart, windows shattered, and part of the roof ripped off. Water was coming in the upper floor and draining into the lower level, saturating everything.

They attempted to clean up the house with thoughts of living in the lower level but realized that was impossible with part of the roof gone. Every time it rained, water would compromise even the lower level of the house. They were able to stay with friends for a couple of days and then were able to stay in a condominium, knowing this would be a short-term solution.

As they started to work their way through the recovery process, they contacted their insurance company filed for FEMA assistance and any other assistance that was available. One of the options they discovered was the Federal Housing Administrations (FHA) 203(h) disaster loan program. This program provides mortgage insurance for individuals or families who lost their homes in a Presidentially declared disaster and who need to rebuild or buy another home. Borrowers from participating FHA-approved lenders are eligible for 100 percent financing, including closing costs. This was their saving grace. Le stated, "If it were not for this program, we would be homeless". The journey from destruction to closing on their new home was not the easiest. There were delays and setbacks but through determination and grit, they persevered and, on February 27, 2018 they finally closed on their new home.

Le and Earl feel fortunate to be alive and even though their home was deemed uninhabitable, they were warmed by the outpouring of compassion from their friends and neighbors and are happy to have a stable, permanent place to call home.


Content Archived: January 28, 2020