By Mike Brunker West Coast news editor
updated 8/28/2006 6:39:43 AM ET 2006-08-28T10:39:43

Aulton Vann Jr., 57, Pascagoula, Miss. Married, owner of an insured beachfront home worth approximately $500,000 and the ruined building that formerly housed his insurance agency. Currently living in a private trailer on his cleared lot.

Six months after Katrina, Aulton Vann Jr. is finally emerging from his hurricane dichotomy, a situation created when the storm simultaneously flushed him out of his insurance business offices and put more work on his plate than he’d ever dreamed of handling.

Vann spent the initial months after the storm helping his clients get their paperwork in order, submit claims and arrange for adjusters to assess their losses. But with the new year, he turned to his own personal disaster — a flattened beachfront home and wrecked place of business.

Since then, the former football coach has orchestrated a sustained drive that has seen him open for business in temporary offices, bulldoze his old building, get plans for a new one drawn up and obtain building permits.

“You’ve got to roll with the punches and ride with the tide,” he says as he waits for final city approval, which he expects within the next few weeks.

Vann says the hardest blow he’s had to absorb — apart from the storm itself — has been strict codes imposed by the city as a condition of receiving federal funding for its rebuilding effort.

“The biggest frustration we have right now is the red tape you’ve got to go through to get your buildings rebuilt,” he says, noting that the city required him to get four surveys on the lot where he plans to rebuild his offices. “You have to follow so many guidelines and there are so few inspectors.”

The layers of bureaucracy have led Vann to push back his estimate of when he will move into his new building from February to “late April or early May.”

He’s also running into new regulations as he prepares to begin rebuilding his beachfront home, which was scoured to the slab by Katrina.

“FEMA wants us to go up on pilings, but if I start work on my dwelling by June 1, I can go up on a chain wall (concrete block filled in with dirt and cement), which I think would be sturdier,” he says.

Vann says he and his wife, Mary Linda, already have picked out plans for a beach home that will be quite a bit smaller than the historic home that once overlooked the gulf.

“I had a 3,600-square-foot house … but I’m going to have to cut back to 2,700- or 2,800-square-feet to stay within my budget,” he says. “Maximum flood coverage is $250,000 and I want to keep it in that range. ... If this happens again, I want to be fully covered.”

Vann, who is taking a break this week to travel with his wife, his children and grandchildren to Disney World, says the rapid progress he has made so far is attributable to one thing: Family.

“My family has been my strong point,” he says. “My brother and sisters took a lot of burdens off me. … My son and two daughters, they came in and knew mom and dad needed help and said, ‘You tell us what you need us to do.’ My secretary, she was back in here and working with us every day. That’s a family. That’s why we can survive.”

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