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The Margin: Beach house washed away by Atlantic Ocean sparks Zillow and climate change chatter

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Two beachfront North Carolina homes collapsed in the wake of heavy ocean surf on Tuesday, and footage of one Outer Banks house being washed out to sea has gone viral on Twitter.

Officials at Cape Hatteras National Seashore National Park Service posted a roughly 90-second clip showing the Atlantic Ocean swiping the stilts out from under the two-story home, followed by the house bobbing in the surf like a bath toy afterwards as the waves continued to pound its walls. 

“Oh my gosh, that’s going down,” one spectator can be heard saying.

The local park service confirmed on Twitter that the home at 24265 Ocean Dr. in Rodanthe, N.C. was unoccupied when it collapsed on Tuesday afternoon. This was the second unoccupied house to collapse along that stretch of the seashore that day. 

National Weather Service advisories for coastal flooding and high surf remain in effect in the area through Thursday. “This is a long duration event with conditions peaking through Wednesday,” the National Weather Service advisories states. “Low lying property including homes, businesses, and some critical infrastructure will be inundated.”

Readers were quick to find the floating house featured on Zillow as a 1,485-square-foot, single-family home. The four-bedroom house with 2.5 bathrooms was last sold for $275,000 in November 2020, and Zillow’s latest estimate put the property’s worth at $381,200, although it noted the home was not currently for sale or for rent on Zillow, and that the description and data was probably provided by a third party, such as the home owner or public records.

This led to many before-and-after photos of the property being shared, as well as some jokes referring to the destroyed structure as a “house boat” now.

Zillow was not immediately available for comment. 

Others suggested that the real estate market has been so crazy that collapsed home could still appeal to some desperate buyers. 

The footage also led to some discussion about the link between severe weather events and climate change. The world racked up $329 billion in economic losses linked to weather and climate-related events such as hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, tsunamis and drought last year, and only 38% of that bill was covered by insurance.  

Natural disasters happen every year, but the collective scientific community has warned that warming global temperatures create more extreme weather. 

Read more: Climate change fueled 3rd costliest losses ever in 2021 — less than half of that property was insured

“Unfortunately, there may be more houses that collapse onto Seashore beaches in the near future,” David Hallac, superintendent of National Parks of Eastern North Carolina told local news outlet WTKR. “We proactively reached out to homeowners along Ocean Drive in Rodanthe after the first house collapse and recommended that actions be taken to prevent collapse and impacts to Cape Hatteras National Seashore.”

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