Beach Houses On Brink

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Six Homes Threatened by the Sea

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, April 20, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Tim McGrail of Teleran Construction oversees heavy equipment placing concrete barriers in front of homes in danger of falling into the Atlantic Ocean from 1056 to 1066 Ocean Blvd. in Hampton on Wednesday. [Photo courtesy of Rich Beauchesne]

HAMPTON -- Public works and safety crews worked to fend off Mother Nature's assault Wednesday morning as astronomical high tides threatened one oceanfront home and put five others in danger of slipping into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Fire Department was called in at 8 a.m. by a neighbor who reported that a section of the concrete sea wall had collapsed, threatening one home at 1064 Ocean Blvd., according fire inspector Jeffrey LeDuc.

The foundation of the summer home owned by Kevin Pierce cracked; the back porch overlooking the ocean and the stairs leading down to the beach were swept away with the tide.

LeDuc said the high tides strengthened by this week's nor'easter eroded the surrounding soil, and the foundation cracked under the weight of the home as it became unbalanced.

Crews worked to set down boulders, concrete slabs and Jersey barriers in an effort to hold back the rising waters as high tide approached around 12:45 p.m.

"Right now we are racing against the clock to stop any more erosion," Hampton building inspector Kevin Schultz said.

And while the house was still standing after the first high tide, crews remained at the scene throughout the evening, working relentlessly to ensure it could withstand the next one.

Once the tide went out, contractors continued piling rocks and Jersey barriers and added support beams to keep the house from slipping any farther.

Schultz said his strategy was to use the rocks and barriers to fend off the high tide and the wooden support beams to secure the foundation.

LeDuc said officials are also still closely monitoring five other homes that are also in danger.

"Fire officials also assessed the rest of the houses along the coastline to ensure that none of them were also undermined by the tides," LeDuc said.

Pierce, who lives in Tewksbury, Mass., said the summer home has been in his family for more than 50 years. The home belonged to his grandfather, and on the front of the house, there is a plaque that reads "Grandpa's dream."

"I never seen anything like this," said Pierce, noting that the tide is usually at least 30 yards away from the rock curtain. "The seawall has lasted over 50 years, and we've been through the '78 storm and made it through that fine."

Bob and Jean Carroll, who own one of the other homes that was jeopardy, compared the damage to the blizzard of '78.

Their home lost its entire patio and stairs leading down to the shore.

"Now I regret repainting the patio," said Jean Carroll, who did the work last summer.

Hampton police, fire and DPW workers were assisted by state police, the state Department of Transportation, the Rockingham County sheriffs and numerous private contractors hauling in materials.

"They just did an amazing job," Hampton Police Capt. Richard Sawyer said. "When I got on the scene at 8:30 a.m., I was concerned that we were possibly going to lose one to four houses into the ocean."

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