FEMA Proposes Nightmare On Top Of Nightmare
The Latest Proposal That Will Not Work
By Dell Hill
FEMA’s answer to several hundred homeless Vermonters
With Winter coming on like gang busters, single-wide mobile homes built for areas of the country with no snowfall and no sub-zero cold are being proposed by FEMA as housing for several hundred Vermonters left homeless by the remnants of Hurricane Irene. Without major, costly changes and additions, the eleventh hour answer to this problem simply will not work.
The “home” pictured above is one of ten such units delivered to Vermont by FEMA and currently under inspection by State authorities as temporary housing for victims of the storm that ripped Vermont’s infrastructure to the tune of billions of dollars to repair or replace and the hundreds of families left homeless. What those inspectors will find should be obvious without even setting foot inside.
The nearly flat roof is constructed of 2” x 2” lightly gusseted rafters, which would undoubtedly collapse under the first foot of Winter snow. If that snow was moisture laden, it would take only six inches to cave it in.
The walls, ceilings and floors are constructed of similar, lightweight building materials and the insulation factor is extremely low. That fact would jack up heating costs to an outrageous amount of money over the course of an entire Winter. Every New Englander would tell you “this would be a nice Summer camp”, but they wouldn’t want to fall asleep in it during a snowstorm.
Vermont usually gets 8-10 FEET of snow each Winter and many of those storms are of the wet, heavy variety. And it’s not uncommon for Vermonters to experience cold snaps of 20-30 below zero weather for weeks at a time.
FEMA officials admit that the proposed homes may not be suited to sustain a Vermont Winter and have suggested that the units be skirted and heat tapes installed to prevent water pipes from freezing; a common occurrence even in well insulated, built-for-New England-weather type dwellings. The fact of the matter is, you’d have to install heat tape on every square inch of water pipes and have the tape turned on 24/7 for about six months…and the pipes still might freeze. The cost in electricity alone would boggle your mind.
They also suggested a canopy style structure to be placed over the flat roof to act similar to a carport. Such a structure would do more to create a refrigerator that would tend to hold the cold and dampness in, rather than keep the house warm and well ventilated.
No mention was made of a concrete slab that would be needed to keep the entire home reasonably level. Apparently the FEMA folks are not aware that frost heaves have been known to move an entire building several inches up, down or sideways. Such a slab would cost several thousand dollars for land prep and the actual pouring of concrete. And the longer they wait, the higher the risk of frost getting into the ground, making the land prep that much more expensive.
I don’t have the specs on the heating system hardware, but past experience with such buildings indicates the installation of a furnace with the very minimal BTU output, which means the furnace would pretty much run constantly just to maintain a reasonable amount of warmth. Thin walls, medium “E” windows and doors with minimal insulation would only cause the furnace to work even harder, increasing the cost even higher.
In short, the entire proposal is yet another nightmare, the cost of which would be so incredibly high that it would be better to subsidize the victim’s rent on standard housing, if enough standard rental properties could be found. Otherwise, the nightmare of Irene will be followed by the nightmare of FEMA and a seriously lame-brained idea.
The State Inspectors are scheduled to complete their work sometime this week. They’d better. Snow flurries are forecast for the higher elevations in just a few days.
Editor’s Note: Dell Hill is a native Vermonter, having survived 62 of his 66 years in the Green Mountain State. He has a fairly good idea of what Winter is all about.