Personal account of hurricane destruction along Mississippi Gulf Coast
September 6, 2005
The following is an eyewitness account of hurricane destruction along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Included is information on plans to provide pro bono services from out of state lawyers to the storm victims, many of whom will need assistance in dealing with insurance companies, relief bureaucracies, and possibly personal or small business bankruptcies in the aftermath of the storm
Bay St. Louis, Miss., taken on Aug. 30, 2005, a day after Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Satellite image courtesy of NOAA
We returned yesterday from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. On Thursday we flew to Atlanta, and on Friday drove down to the Coast with two SUVs packed with emergency supplies.
The destruction of the storm exceeds what you’ve seen on TV. The storm surge — 30+ feet in Bay St. Louis and Waveland, well over 25 feet further east along the Coast — essentially obliterated all homes and virtually all other structures for a distance of 1/4 to 3/4 of a mile inland from Waveland to Ocean Springs, a distance of about 35 miles. With rare exceptions, those structures are just gone, leaving slabs and partial foundations and mountains of debris. The trees that remain along the Coast (and for several miles inland) have been denuded of all leaves, and give a deadish brown and gray appearance to the landscape.
Inland of the storm surge zone, much of the area had serious damage from rising water that didn’t have the destructive wave action of the surge, but nevertheless has caused severe and possible irreparable damage. And the hurricane winds also inflicted tremendous damage to structures as far as 100 miles or more north of the Coast.
Power remains out, except for personal generators, and won’t likely be restored most places along the Coast for many weeks. Landline phone service is out of commission, and cell service is very spotty and unreliable. Gasoline was a very serious issue that interferes with people’s ability to deal with the clean-up — we saw only a handful of stations open and selling gas from Meridian (150 miles north of the Coast) all the way south, and that handful had huge lines of cars. Presumably that situation will get somewhat better soon as gas supplies are delivered and stations which were not seriously damaged are repaired and get power (which they can do with portable generators even if the grid isn’t up and running).
Disaster relief forces were beginning to arrive on Friday when we got down there, and were very evident by Saturday evening when we left the area. We saw many caravans of power company trucks from all over the country, come down to help rebuild the electricity infrastructure and restore power to those buildings that can handle it. I want to give a particular plug to Georgia Power, which had trucks in Bay St. Louis as early as Wednesday, and were doing a bang-up job in running new power lines and putting in new poles where required all over the Bay and Waveland.
Any vehicle left during the storm in Bay St. Louis or Waveland — towns which collectively have a pre-storm population of nearly 25,000 — is probably ruined by being submerged in salt water. Some of the losses are insured, some are not.
Many people have asked what they can do to help. For hurricane victims generally, the American Red Cross is a good place to donate, as well as the Salvation Army and any religious disaster relief effort of your choice. I’d also like to suggest that the lawyers among you (and others who are favorably disposed to lawyers) consider a contribution to the Mississippi Bar’s Hurricane Lawyers Relief Fund, which has been established to assist lawyers whose offices were destroyed or damaged and practices severely disrupted by the storm, such as my brother. Use this link to get the information about the fund and to make a contribution: http://www.msbar.org/index.php. In addition, we are working on ways to organize and provide pro bono services from out of state lawyers to the storm victims, many of whom will need assistance in dealing with insurance companies, relief bureaucracies, and possibly personal or small business bankruptcies in the aftermath of the storm. Mississippi has about 7,000 lawyers state-wide, most of whom are probably solo practitioners or in very small 2 or 3 lawyer firms, and with the storm’s disruption of a goodly portion of them, it is highly improbable that the Mississippi bar will have the ability to provide these services in the face of this incredible demand. If this effort materializes, we will probably hit you up for a contribution to support it.
Other hurricane information:
- New Orleans Aquarium, Zoo update September 6, 2005
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans apparently survived Hurricane Katrina relatively unscathed according to a report in The Baltimore Sun. Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana city Monday.
- Hurricanes getting stronger due to global warming says study August 29, 2005
Late last month an atmospheric scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology released a study in Nature that found hurricanes have grown significantly more powerful and destructive over the past three decades. Kerry Emanuel, the author of the study, warns that since hurricanes depend on warm water to form and build, global climate change might increase the effect of hurricanes still further in coming years.
- Environmental problems worsened Hurricane Katrina’s impact August 31, 2005
The loss of coastal marshlands that buffer New Orleans from flooding and storm surges may have worsened the impact of Hurricane Katrina. In the past, the region’s wetlands have served as a natural buffer that slows hurricanes down as they come in from the Gulf of Mexico and helps protect New Orleans from storms. But all this has changed.
- Hurricane news for individual counties and cities in Louisiana, Mississippi September 1, 2005
Hurricane Katrina left a path of destruction in its wake across Louisiana, Mississippi, and other southern states. If an effort to provide timely and location-specific information, below is a list of news article links for individual counties and cities across the region.
- Aerial photos of Hurricane Katrina destruction: NOAA posted online more than 1450 aerial images of the U.S. Gulf Coast areas that were decimated by Hurricane Katrina.