Monte Rio man loses family vacation home in North Carolina storm

Ralph Patricelli knows well the horror and devastation captured in a viral video circulating on YouTube of the watery May 10 collapse of an oceanfront home as it is hammered by a powerful storm along North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

The beach house in the video was the third one to fall and it had belonged to his neighbor. Patricelli’s vacation home next door collapsed into the Atlantic a day earlier.

“The home was unrecognizable,” Patricelli, a real estate agent who lives in Monte Rio, said of his former Rodanthe, North Carolina vacation home, which he’d bought just nine months ago. “I thought the property manager sent me photos of someone else’s home that had collapsed. It took me some time to digest that it was mine. I couldn’t believe it.”

His and his neighbor’s homes along Ocean Drive on Cape Hatteras were felled after withstanding days of pounding by a coastal tempest believed to have unleashed tornadoes in Texas and Oklahoma, and flooding in the South and Mid-Atlantic regions earlier this month, The Washington Post reported .

Patricelli said the photos of his destroyed two-story home showed that its debris had been scattered along the coast.

He suspects his home collapsed some time in the early hours of May 9. Then on the next day, his neighbor’s home, which was captured on video around 1 pm, collapsed.

Rising sea levels attributed to climate change have drastically damaged at least four of the 12 homes located on Ocean Drive, he said. As a result, he and his neighbors use an ongoing email thread to discuss their concerns and keep each other updated amid the continuous storms in the area.

In the summer of 2021, Patricelli and his sister purchased the two-story vacation home, built in 1985, in hopes of it becoming a central getaway spot where their families — after months of pandemic isolation — could gather.

They tried getting together there for Thanksgiving and Christmas last year, he said, but couldn’t since the storms continued to damage the home’s septic system.

“After the second time (the septic system was damaged) we decided we’d move the house further back (on the beach), but the storm took the house before we could even move it,” he said.

So far this year, there have been three homes along Ocean Drive that have been destroyed. The first house collapsed Feb. 9. Its debris was spread as far as 15 miles, the Washington Post reported.

Turning 58 on Tuesday, Patricelli said he would’ve liked to have spent his birthday at his North Carolina home with his family.

He said he is continuing to work with his insurance and hopes to rebuild the home in a location farther away from the ocean.

“It’s heartbreaking,” he added, noting that the impact of climate change is happening everywhere. “There’s issues no matter where you live. (In the North Bay) you have a fire, then put it out — then you have another fire. (To the east), the storms are doing more damage than they ever have before.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mya Constantino at mya.constantino@pressdemocrat.com. @searchingformya on Twitter.

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