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Miracle house of Superstorm Sandy

How one home was left standing thanks to its clever design

Seaside Mantoloking house built above ground on eight-foot stilts survived the wind and waves that destroyed all the homes around it.

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	The aerial view shows storm damage over the Atlantic Coast in Seaside Heights, N.J.,  Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, taken from a helicopter traveling behind the helicopter carrying President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as they viewed storm damage from superstorm Sandy. 



The aerial view shows storm damage over the Atlantic Coast in Seaside Heights, N.J. after Superstorm Sandy.

Ed Wright’s home in Mantoloking, N.J. suffered minimal damage in the storm, while every house within a 200-foot radius was leveled. In all, 60 homes in this small Ocean County borough were destroyed during Hurricane Sandy, Chris Nelson, an adviser to Mantoloking’s mayor, told The Star-Ledger.

Wright and his family were on vacation when the storm hit and were certain their home, just 250 feet from the ocean, would be among those destroyed by the massive storm surge and powerful waves that flattened a row of 20-foot-high protective sand dunes.


As the storm subsided, they got news from a neighbor that their home had survived.

I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news," Wright’s friend told him. "The bad news is that most everybody is gone. The good news is that your house is still there."



A lone home sits on the beach in an area that residents say was filled with homes but are now gone the morning after superstorm Sandy rolled through, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Mantoloking, N.J.

Wright, a retired industrial arts teacher who taught high school students design and architecture, designed his home with its picturesque, if exposed, location in mind.

The house was built on 34 tall stilts, or pilings, driven into a concrete foundation. The style is similar to construction on Long Beach Island or the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The first floor of the home was eight feet above ground.

The house was designed differently than others in town.

“Ed’s house is an early example of pilings," Nelson told the Star-Ledger. "And, he didn’t call it this, but also of a breakaway foundation when the ground floor broke through like it was supposed to. He was a trendsetter ... or a fortune teller."



A New Jersey State Police boat is seen near the Mantoloking bridge Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, along the bayside of Mantoloking, N.J., where Monday's storm surge by superstore Sandy cut a path through the town from the Atlantic Ocean to the bayside.

The home had two roofs, one long and one short. The long roof faces north to stand against prevailing winds.

Even FEMA officials were impressed by the home’s design and the relative lack of damage it suffered.

"This guy took the initiative to go above and beyond the existing standards" when he built, Bill McDonnell, a hazard mitigation deputy branch director for FEMA told the Star-Ledger.

"He was way ahead of his time."

The home did suffer some damage, including water that rushed in through windows and knocked out heating and air conditioning. Trees surrounding the house were swept away, and the garage was badly damaged.

Otherwise, things were largely OK.

"It was all in one piece," Wright said. "Like we had just gone to eat, as if we had just gone out."


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