Hurricane Katrina and the Mississippi
During January of the Middler (second) year, ETSS students usually
spend two or three weeks engaged in urban ministry in Austin or San
Antonio, TX; Atlanta, GA; or Los Angeles, CA. After Hurricane
Katrina devistated the Mississippi coast in August of 2005, a fifth
option was made available. Three of us (and two others from the
seminary) spent a dozen days in Long Beach, MS at Camp Coast Care, a
Lutheran-Episcopal Disaster Response Center that was located
in/around the gymnasium at the Coast Episcopal
I should note that at the time we visited, the only organizations
Katrina survivors were faith based. The Baptists had the largest
presence, but our nearest neighbors in Long Beach were Nazarenes.
Some of what we distributed to survivors was donated to us by the
Mormons; we were all in this together. FEMA and the Red Cross had
largely disappeared; Habitat for Humanity was waiting until the
rebuilding phase, which was still months away.
Camp Coast Care
Camp Coast Care provided donated food, housewares, books,
furniture, and clothing seven days a week to 2,000-2,500 people a
day. (600-700 people came through each day, picking up essentials
for their families and neighbors.) Free medical services were
available Monday through Saturday and served an average of 150 people a
day. (Think M*A*S*H.)
The camp also sent out teams of day workers to assist
people with clearing out and rebuilding their homes. By the end
of January, 2006, some 700 work orders had been completed by our
out of a total of somewhere between 20,000 and 70,000 that had been
estimated to be completed by all relief efforts.
For my part, I spent two days working in the "store" (food/supply
on the (un)loading dock (I hadn't driven a fork lift in 30 years, but
it came back to me fairly quickly), a day working at St. Patrick's Episcopal
in Long Beach, four days on work crews, and one day in New Orleans.
Grasping the Scope of the Destruction
I created this page in order to collect my impressions and
pointers to other sources. I wrote five months after the
storm, when most Americans had all but forgotten about it. The
reality is that recovery will take several years and billions of
dollars that Mississippi simply does not have and cannot generate until
its economy recovers. Five years later, there is still much to be
Photos simply don't do justice to the scope of the devastation.
As I wrote to a few family members, first imagine a block of small, well
kept houses surrounded by mature
trees looking out onto the beach. Now imagine all of them
gone. Only their foundations (some slabs, some 6' pilings)
with an occasional pipe sticking up. Every tree had been knocked
stripped of its leaves, and/or poisoned by the 20+ feet of salt water
that washed over all of it.
Now imagine the same scene for 150 miles of coastline. As bad as
was in Long Beach and Pass Christiane, it was far worse in Waveland and
Bay St. Louis, a few miles to the west. The storm surge there
approached 40 feet and washed miles inland, as far as Interstate
10. We helped remove the layer of mud that remained at a home
that had received 9' of water, two miles from the Gulf shoreline.
Though New Orleans got all the press, the worst of Katrina's fury was
spent on the Mississippi coast. Hurricanes rotate
counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, so the winds blowing
onshore to the right
of the eye wall create the storm surge that produces the
most destruction. On the left side (where New Orleans was), the
winds blow offshore and there is no storm surge. New Orleans'
infamous Ninth Ward was
flooded by the failure of the levee system, not by Katrina
addition to the storm surge and sustained high winds, hurricanes spawn
tornadoes that do additional damage at random, especially to the north
and east of the eye.
We heard one comment repeatedly as we spoke with Katrina victims who
had also weathered Hurricane Camille in 1969. Until Katrina,
Camille had been the most destructive storm ever to hit the US Gulf
Coast. Victims of Camille would say, "My house survived Camille
in 1969 and it was 'cat 5,' so how much worse can this be?" The
answer was that Katrina was a lot
Camille was a Category 5 storm (winds > 151 mph), but it
was also fast-moving. Camille did its damage and was gone within
an hour or two; Katrina crossed the Gulf at Category 5 and weakened
slightly before making landfall at Category 4 (winds around 140
mph), but it lingered for up to 12 hours! That gave it the chance
to build a truly frightening storm surge, which was close to twice the
predicted height of 20'.
Before and After Photos
A number of people and organizations have posted photos
damage of their various web sites. The first link below provides
some aerial photos
from the US Geological Survey that provide "before" and "after" shots,
along with a sense of the scale of the destruction.
A second link is to the Mississippi Heritage Trust site, with shots of
historic properties that were (in many cases) destroyed by Katrina.
A First Hand Account
Editor-in-Chief of Car
and Driver Magazine rode out the storm in his house in Pass
Christian. Like all too many others, he had weathered Hurricane
1969 and assumed this storm couldn't be as bad (it was "only" category
4, after all). Alas, Camille blew through in an hour or two;
lingered for 10 to 12 hours.
Rebuilding Will Take Years!
I created this page to help keep the plight of Katrina
victims (especially in Mississippi) from being forgotten. Even
after five years, there
is a vast amount of work yet
to be done. Though I was greatly impressed by the level of
activity in the destroyed areas of the Mississippi coast (and saddened
that there was none at all in parts of New Orleans), the reality is
that actual reconstruction couldn't start until what remained of the
damaged homes was removed. That took months after my visit.
MDiv Class of 2007
Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest
27 Jan 2006
Revised 29 Dec 2010