Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rethinking Rebuilding

We had the mother of hail storms here about 6 weeks ago. Honestly - I've chased some tornadoes in West Texas, and I haven't seen hail the size of these stones since I sat in a car watching a funnel cloud move across a wide open cotton field on the South Plains in 1979. This was large hail. We'd have called it "baseball-sized" back in the newsroom in Lubbock. It took a while for the insurance adjusters to make the rounds, but they've come and gone - left big checks behind - and now the neighborhood is dotted with roofer's signs and filled with the daily sounds of what can only be described as "woodpecker colony meets shooting range"... The hammering of shingles begins early in the morning and lasts all day. I guess you'd say we're rebuilding, although a piece of me feels like it's more appropriate to call it suburban indulgence of a need to get something out of that high premium we pay for our homeowners insurance every month. Nothing is leaking at my house. I see no holes. Apparently my insurance adjuster could see something that qualified as 100% damage to my 12-month old roof, but it's a mystery to me. It's certainly nothing like the scene in the Sichuan province of China. Remember Sichuan last May? The 8.0 earthquake that killed 70,000 people and left hundreds of thousands sitting in rubble? No one in Sichuan was out in the yard digging through hedges and flower beds in search of a blown shingle or two...they were out in the piles of fallen structures looking for members of their families. No one in Sichuan is holding an insurance check today and pondering the possibility of using the money to re-carpet instead of re-roof - they're living in lean-tos made from the rubble of what was once a home, and trying to build something new out of concrete and steel that will pass "earthquake safe" engineering recommendations. Many of them are poor farmers who can't upgrade the quality of their masonry to meet recommended standards. Even though they still feel tremors almost every day that remind them of what can happen if they don't build safe homes, they can only afford what they can afford...and living in a lean-to through another winter is not a very appealing option. 69,197 dead in China's 8.0 earthquake last May. 370,000 people injured. 2,000 children orphaned. Countless - millions - left homeless. A world citizen might be thinking $4,000 for a roof that shows no sign of damage would be best spent on masonry and re bar in China... Peace.

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