A Q & A With Owners Of Burien House Damaged In Storm, Plus Slideshow

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Dane Johnson & Kathy Justin accepting the city of Burien's Community Leader Award in 2009.

As we first reported last week, a waterfront home belonging to prolific Burien artists Dane Johnson and Kathy Justin was severely damaged on the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 23rd, after a horrendous overnight storm battered the house so hard it got dislodged from its foundation.

Numerous neighbors, friends and even strangers who saw our urgent, online call for help responded quickly, helping the couple rescue and move belongings from the condemned house up steep, slick stairs to safety.

Dane and Kathy were not injured, but they lost their house, which now sits broken and vacant on the north beach of Three Tree Point, tipping towards the water and ready for demolition, or, perhaps…recovery? No one really knows for sure yet, but the city’s dreaded red tag of doom anoints the upper staircase.

Several other bulkheads in the area were damaged as well by the storm, which had gusts up to 40mph as well as a possible storm surge. Some reports are that up to six feet of beach was eroded overnight by the high waves, which relentlessly battered everything they hit.

A Dane and Kathy Disaster Fund has been set up, with a Facebook Page that has info on how to donate.

We managed to get a hold of the couple between their hectic new (and hopefully temporary) lifestyle of trying to find a new place to live, track their belongings and just get through typical day-to-day life after living through a major, personal disaster.

Here’s our exclusive Question and Answer with them about surviving their “personal Katrina”:

How long had you lived at that house?

A little over a decade.

Did you ever feel endangered in it prior to this storm?

No, most wind storms have come in from the south and have never been anywhere close to this big.

What was it like the night of the storm?

We lost power about 5pm the previous day (Monday, Nov. 22nd) and we were camping out in the living room trying to keep warm. The wind storm got progressively worse throughout the evening. At about 5:30am in the morning the breakwater broke and the house shifted and broke the gas line. From that point on it was our focus to get the gas off and to remove as many personally functional and sentimental items as we could.

Did you ever feel in danger during the storm?

We have been through many big storms in the past and did not really feel in danger, but the increased winds and direction of this one really made this one different.

After you knew something was seriously wrong, what did you do?

We called 911 for the fire department and tried to put out the fire in the fireplace because I was unable to turn the gas off.

Do you have insurance? Will it cover this?

We are insured, as of this moment our insurer has not let us know if they will be covering this incident. We have been told it could take a few weeks before they make a judgment, until then we are on our own.

A lot of friends and neighbors showed up to help move stuff – did you get everything out?

We got most items out that had personal and sentimental value, the larger easily replaced items were left for last and most of those did not make it. The house was deemed too unsafe at that point.

What do you think of the people who showed up to help?

The support of the Burien community, our friends and those who responded to the various media stories was overwhelming. At one point there was a fire line from the house all the way to the street moving our stuff out which is about a 15 story climb. Other people arranged a storage facility (the only one that was open) and arranged to transport most of our salvaged items to that 10×30 locker.

We are still in shock and awestruck over the amount of support we received Tuesday.

Have you ever been through anything like this before?

I’ve been in an earthquake in another location where we had several days to evacuate but never in a situation where we had just a couple of hours to gather our wits and belongings.  We are very thankful to everyone who helped us.

A fund has been created (Facebook Page here) – what do you guys need?=

We appreciate all of the support we have received already and are coming to realize how long and expensive this process will be, espescially since we are still unsure of our insurance claim status. The fund that was set up for us by friends (see the Facebook Page here) was a surprise but we are now very thankful it is there considering what is ahead of us.

Where are you staying now?

We were in a hotel that the Red Cross organized for us but are currently in a neighbors guest apartment. It is very nice and makes us feel alot more human. We are working on a longer term solution. A challenge when you still have to pay your mortgage, but we are hopefull that something very positive will workout.

What’s going to happen to the house?

We do not know nor can we speculate. We are currently in limbo waiting for insurance as I know several other homeowners on the beach are too.  We are not the only casualty of the storm and many of our neighbors are also dealing with the outcome of the wind storm.

What kinds of things have people done to help you? (I might do another story on people donating/helping you out if there’s enough for one).

Number one , help us get most of our stuff out, organized a location for it to go to and got it there. So much was going on that day and we were/are both in shock, there is no way we could have lead that evacuation so efficiently.

People have been making calls on our behalf to try and give us directions to concentrate on, the Army Corp of engineers, and the City of Burien while we try to make progress with Allstate. Others have helped us find a clean, dry and pleasant place to stay for a few days while we get our feet back under us and others have brought us warm home cooked food.

We still do not have a total grasp on how many people and who all helped us, Kathy and I are both suffering from mild colds and shock.  We think and seem to have an never ending list of must-do’s but we are healthy and together and just flat out amazed at our community. We feel we can not express our thanks enough. Thank You to everyone who helped us.

Any other thoughts?

We just want to thank everyone again for the tremendous amount of help on Tuesday and for their ongoing support including the Burien businesses like Mick Kelly’s Irish Pub, Burien Press, The Mark and Elliott Bay Brewery who have helped us with our sanity by keeping us fed while we were in shock.

The effect of this event has many sides but witnessing the community come out and support not only us but our neighbors has been incredible.

It made us realize over this holiday weekend all that we can be thankful for.

Following is a Sound Slideshow Produced by Scott Schaefer of damage done to the house, using photos shot by Todd Gardiner (© 2010, used with permission), and one of the house in its normal state courtesy Guy Harper, set to the melodramatic 1906 public domain song “Home Sweet Home” by Irving Gillette (be sure your speakers are turned up):

Click to Play
Click to Play Sound Slideshow

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