Katrina damage in Mississippi

Bay Saint Louis Travel Blog

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The Gulf Coast of Mississippi suffered massive damage from the impact of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, leaving 236 people dead, 67 missing, and an estimated $125 Billion in damages.

A piece of me will always remain in the French Quarter in New Orleans.  From the moment I stepped foot on the first cobblestone I fell in love or at least enamored with all that I saw.  When Katrina hit, my heart dropped at the thought of the damage and destruction to my beloved city.  The media hype and chaos that ensued left me dismayed and rather disappointed.  Now when I travel to New Orleans I relate it to a third world country.  The violence, stealing, military policing the area, and the constant helicopter surveillance.  Oddly enough the French Quarter is almost exactly as it was.

About a month ago I was given the opportunity to drive thru Mississippi on my way to Imaging USA in San Antonio.

  I have seen and documented the damage in New Orleans but I like so many other seemed to have forgotten there was an area to the East that suffered more damage than New Orleans did.

I started my adventure in Mobile, Alabama from there I headed to Highway 90.  As I drove thru Ocean Springs heading west to Biloxi I was touched by the lack of self pity and the communities not feeling sorry for them.  Instead I was met with team work, support for each other, a complete lack of looting, and locals who did not focus on what happened.  Instead they talked of the future and changes to better their communities.  As I drove into Biloxi I found myself taken back by its beauty.

  Without a shadow of a doubt this was once a gorgeous area and without a doubt it will be again.

I continued to drive until I arrived in Gulfport and my jaw dropped at the devastation laid out in front of me.  There were miles upon miles of beach front businesses just gone.  You could still see signs, plumbing, and foundation in some areas, in others the area was devoid of all life.

The rebuilding has made slow progress and the signs of the storm are still clearly evident.

I spent hours speaking with the locals along the route as I pulled over for photos and exploring.  It was refreshing almost enjoyable the hope and joy the locals showered on me and other media crews in the area.

  They were not dwelling on what had not been provided for them, they did not want hand outs, or something for free.  Instead they shared their plans for rebuilding and the changes to the community.  There was no self pity, they were not bitter about being forgotten, and the ones I talked with didn’t feel anyone owed them anything.  Instead they focused on helping neighbors, community rebuilding projects and housing those who needed help.  I asked one of the locals where the trailers were at, like the trailer farms in New Orleans.  He simply laughed.  Some of the residents were provided with trailers and they placed them on their property to assist in the rebuilding of their homes.  When their construction was finished they would let the neighbors live in the trailer without moving it so the family would have the amenities they needed.
  The community effort and willingness to foster change should be applauded by all.

I continued my drive to the bridge heading to Bay Saint Louis.  There were signs posted from Biloxi on, stating the bridge was out.  I will be honest here; I didn’t put any stock in it or find a different route.  The bridge was standard solid cement, heavy duty and built to sustain a boat hit or a dead on hit from a category 5 hurricane.  This was the type of bridges that you see all over Texas across portions of the ocean or channels.  These bridges don’t just fall over or give out.  Well it didn’t fall down, it was ripped apart and huge sections are just gone.

There is now a ferry taking locals into Bay Saint Louis.  You wait about 45 minutes for the ferry and it can only hold 29 vehicles at a time.  As I waited for the ferry I found the local’s friendly and most of them absolutely charming.  While waiting for the ferry I was told about the history of the area and highlights of Bay Saint Louis.  Two local women I met described the art district of the Bay prior to the storm and it sounded quaint.  The bay was not a disappointment it hands down was the highlight of the trip.  The devastation Bay Saint Louis suffered is visible everywhere you look.  The Bay is an artsy town with store fronts full o photography, prints and canvas art.  Set among coffee shops and local bakeries.

This is Mississippi Hemi, she was a stow away.
  The town has rebuilt most of the damaged ocean front in the down town area.  I spent a few hours in the Bay browsing stores and meeting the locals.

The talk of the town was not the storm, construction, or government financing or lack thereof.  It was pure joy that the storks and pelicans have returned to the area.  Since Katarina the wild life disappeared, prior to the storm I was told you could walk out on the peer and see hundreds of birds each morning.

I finished my drive thru Mississippi and found I was truly happy and full of joy.  So, then it was into Louisiana and my first stop, Slidell.  To sum up the damage in Slidell is simple, “ouch.”  As I drove deeper into Louisiana I took photos and did some more talking.

  After a couple of hours I decided to make a stop in New Orleans, I was still a little pumped from my time in Mississippi.  As I entered East New Orleans the mood in the air and me changed.  I pulled up to a light and across from me was a Military Hummer on patrol.  Above two helicopters converged on the area and in the distance you could hear rapid gun fire.  As I looked away in disgust my eyes fell on a street vendor who had set up a shop in one of many abandoned gas stations.  He had truck loads of appliances, windows and tools.  It was obvious that the items had been stolen from residents attempting to rebuild their homes.  I sat wondering why someone did not do something.  It was at that moment I realized there isn’t anyone left who can change this area.
  The military is there to exchange gun fire with the gangs and attempt to keep the area out of martial law.  The police were not visible for close to a 14 mile stretch and the residents knew it.  I watched cars fly past, blast thru red lights, sell and use drugs on the side of the road visibly not concerned with who saw them.

There is a night and day difference between New Orleans and Mississippi and the attitude of the residents.  I regret that I did not have the opportunity to visit Mississippi prior to the storms; I would wager the area was breath taking.

The French Quarter will always have a piece of my heart however; the people in Mississippi have my respect.

 

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This is Mississippi Hemi, she was …
This is Mississippi Hemi, she was…
Landed in the road.
Landed in the road.
Common site in New Orleans.
Common site in New Orleans.
905 km (562 miles) traveled
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photo by: michellepowell