Storm-ravaged Lake Erie homeowners, ‘we all are on our own’

Local News

EVANS, N.Y. (WIVB)–Homeowners along Lake Erie in the Town of Evans are used to hundreds of feet of beaches and shoreline behind their homes. That is, until this year.

Lake levels are at record highs, and when a wind storm hit on Halloween Night, suddenly those beautiful beaches and six foot retaining walls were gone as gale force winds and a 7-foot tidal surge known as a seiche battered the shoreline, destroying property and toppling trees.

Homeowner Pat O’Reilly described the beating inflicted on his Lake Shore Road property, “We first lost 40 yards of beach, and then I lost my wall.”

With Lake Erie about two feet higher than average and the pounding from the seiche, O’Reilly’s three-foot retaining wall, and his beach are gone.

“The water came up and pulled all my concrete out, the wall, took away everything we had for 20 feet.”

The retaining wall behind Tom Jakiel’s home collapsed from waves constantly pounding his property, and much of his backyard was swept away.

“I come down in the morning, I look out that window and I think I am out to sea. I used t see beach, now all I see is water.”

Jakiel is a legend among Buffalo’s rowing community, and he and his neighbors have seen state and federal officials coming to the aid of Lake Ontario’s shoreline residents, but Lake Erie?

They know government disaster relief doesn’t cover damage to private property, and that painfully apparent to O’Reilly, “We are all on our own for the repairs. It is not residential damage, it is damage to my wall.”

The estimated cost of the damage and cleanup along the Lake Shore Road beaches could reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and most of the homeowners don’t have insurance to cover any of it.

So is living here worth the aggravation? O’Reilly has no doubt.

“Thirty minutes from Buffalo and we say there is Prozac in the air. You just sit out, have a beer in the evening, watch the sunset, and you feel like you are on vacation in your own house.”

Lake Shore Road homeowners said Evans officials have talked about summoning the National Guard for help. The beaches are in the Guard’s jurisdiction, and Guard members would help with beach cleanup.

Beach cleanup might not seem like much compared to the full scope of devastation, but the fallen trees and large debris that washed up on shore can be expensive to remove.

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