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Riviera Beach homes demolished after damaging flooding

Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 6:47 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Wednesday was bittersweet for some Riviera Beach residents. Six homes, deteriorating and molding after extensive flooding, were finally demolished.

They say there’s no place like home. And for Rene Aldridge, watching a crane tear down her friend’s home wasn’t easy.

“The lady straight across the street from me, Olga. She came here from Chile and this is the first time she had ever bought in her whole life,” Aldridge, a Riviera Beach resident, said. “She fixed that little house up so cute it was beautiful. At Christmas time, she had everything fixed up in her living room and everything.”

But along with five other houses in the Riviera neighborhood, located on the west end of Panama City Beach, historic amounts of rainfall caused hurricane-like flooding. It left residents with no choice but to leave their homes behind.

“This area is in a depressed area. There is no real relief for them to actually take the water. We were actually having to pump it up the hill to go downstream,” Bay County Commissioner Robert Carroll said. “And when it’s low like this they were on septic tanks. So we were having to be concerned about health issues.”

Last November, community members came together and asked the Bay County Commission for help.

“Over 30 of us went to the county and to our surprise, they were prepared already with a plan which was a great blessing,” Deborah Lowry, a Riviera Beach resident, said.

The County agreed to purchase the six houses for roughly $1.37 million using federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

They decided to make it into something useful for future storms. Once all of the debris is cleaned up, the next step will be planning out the retention pond. In place of the homes, a shallow basin will be built out to collect stormwater.

While it’s a bittersweet goodbye, it’s also a relief.

“This is just not just. I don’t know. It’s just not something that is just about physical stuff here. There are emotions and heart in each of these houses,” Lowry said.

The demolition process will take roughly two weeks. Officials said the retention pond should be built out within the next six months.

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