Hurricane Katrina: Nine years after the storm
By Geoff Belcher
Aug 26, 2014, 19:50
In the days just after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, much of Hancock County lay in ruins. This Friday marks the ninth anniversary since the storm, which is to date the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina surged ashore on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The monster storm killed hundreds, left thousands homeless and caused untold billions of dollars' worth of damage. This Friday will mark the ninth anniversary of the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.
"It's hard to believe it's been nine years already," Waveland Mayor David Garcia said Tuesday. "Time has just flown by."
"Since then," Tish Williams, executive director of the Hancock Chamber of Commerce, said, "we have literally rebuilt two downtowns from the ground up. The downtown in Bay St. Louis was partially destroyed and the downtown in Waveland was totally washed away.
"The infrastructure has been completely rebuilt and all of our roads have been replaced. And our bridge that connects us to the rest of the MS Coast was rebuilt. With its walking path and the most unique display of local art found anywhere, it became a motivating, beautiful symbol of our recovery.Our last major rebuilding project, a new downtown harbor (opened last month). This will be the economic catalyst to complete our rebuilding."
Garcia said he is amazed by the progress made since the devastating hurricane, although in Waveland, the population south of the railroad tracks has not rebounded quite as quickly as other areas of the county.
"A lot of that has to do with the national economy," Garcia said, "but it's also because of the insurance." Windpool insurance costs have been prohibitively high in low-lying parts of the city, he said, slowing growth.
"We're happy with what we have so far," he said, "but we're hoping for our rebuilding to go a little bit farther.”
“Having been here both before Katrina and after, I sometimes forget how far we’ve truly come,” LiLi Stahler-Murphy, Waveland’s Ward 1 alderman and the director of the Waveland Ground Zero Hurricane Museum, said Tuesday. “I tend to look at the vacant lots and worry. But then we had a young man from Georgia come to the museum and look at the exhibits, and he said, ‘Oh, my goodness, y’all have rebuilt so beautifully.
“The progress has been slow but it’s been steady .. . We have to focus on what we have accomplished, not what we haven’t. I’m full of hope for our future.”
"I think we've come a long way since Katrina," Brian "Hooty" Adam, executive director of the Hancock Emergency Management Agency, said Tuesday. "Most of the county is done, most of the buildings are rebuilt, our EOC (Emergency Operations Center) is about finished.
"I don't think we're 100 percent back, but I think we're certainly getting there. I think we make strides every day.I think our infrastructure and all that is a lot better than it was before the storm."
"But we did not get here on our own ...," Williams said. "It was the people from throughout the country who came to help and who still today give us so much hope. ... When you witness first hand the power of the human spirit, people helping people, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a God. And, He has a plan for each of us, whether we are leading a balanced life or a life that seems out of control."
Hancock County's official observance of the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina will take place this Friday at the Waveland Ground Zero Hurricane Museum on Coleman Avenue, beginning at 9 a.m.
For more details, see separate story, at http://www.seacoastecho.com/article_8141.shtml#.U_0s-kZjjKk
Garcia said the city will also unveil two new markers at the museum: One bearing the names of all of the residents of Waveland who lost their lives to Katrina; and another to thank those who came to volunteer their aid.