Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina: The Mississippi Story

James Patterson Smith
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Hurricane Katrina
    Book Description:

    This book presents the fullest account yet written of the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Rooted in a wealth of oral histories, it tells the dramatic but underreported story of a people who confronted the unprecedented devastation of sixty five thousand homes when the eye wall and powerful northeast quadrant of the hurricane swept a record thirty-foot storm surge across a seventy-five-mile stretch of unprotected Mississippi towns and cities. James Patterson Smith takes us through life and death accounts of storm day, August 29, 2005, and the precarious days of food and water shortages that followed. Along the way the narrative treats us to inspiring episodes of neighborly compassion and creative responses to the greatest natural disaster in American history.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-024-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-1)
  5. [Illustration]
    (pp. 2-2)
  6. Chapter One Katrina Impacts Mississippi: “This Is Our Tsunami”
    (pp. 3-33)

    Hurricanes pack a destructive power unrivaled by any other force known to the meteorological sciences. Tragic life-and-death struggles come with every hurricane landfall. Still, ordinary coastal citizens of every class, including well-informed veteran local leaders, often underestimate the danger. Such miscalculations are an unfortunate part of the story of Katrina in Mississippi and Louisiana. By 5:30 a.m. on the morning of Monday, August 29, 2005, hurricane-force winds extending 120 miles from the center of Hurricane Katrina reached the town of Waveland, Mississippi.² Behind these winds the slow-moving eye wall of the dreaded northeast quadrant of the 400-mile-wide storm lumbered north...

  7. Chapter Two Havoc in the Aftermath
    (pp. 34-60)

    Bloodied, badly bruised, and naked but for pieces of plastic wrapped around them, Barry Jones and Rick Nagy, the survivors from the Blue Cliff Business College washout, looked like they had “been in some barroom fight or something.” Still dazed from their ordeal and overwhelmed by the scenes of annihilation around them, the two men started walking north up Tegarden Road, working their way around and over pieces of buildings and fallen trees to Pass Road. Here, these walking wounded flagged down a fire rescue squad to ask for a ride to a hospital. The fireman’s unexpected answer reflected a...

  8. Chapter Three Hitching Up Our Britches: Strength at the Bottom in a World Turned Upside Down
    (pp. 61-81)

    Moments of great crisis can reveal strengths and weaknesses which in lesser times lie hidden behind facades of mundane busyness or the glitter of status and rank. It has now become almost legendary that while Katrina churned, top-tier Washington-based FEMA officials jousted over political turf, and Director Michael Brown quipped with aides about wardrobe selections for his televised emergency briefings.³ One of the tragedies of the human condition is the tendency of the powerful to fall victim to hidden sins of the spirit—hubris, complacency, and bureaucratic indifference. On the other hand, in a strange inversion of expectations, times of...

  9. Chapter Four Rising from Shell Shock: Sources of Resilience in State and Local Government
    (pp. 82-92)

    In the United States, standard practice vests responsibility for initial disaster response at the local government level. If the disaster overwhelms local capacities, local governments request state support, with the federal government providing financial support and assets upon the request of the state.³ Katrina overwhelmed local government on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Dr. Marlin Ladner, who represented the wrecked towns of Pass Christian and Long Beach on the Harrison County Board of Supervisors, thought that the unbelievable devastation in Mississippi had left most local officials “stunned” for the first day or two. “We were . . . shell shocked,” Ladner...

  10. Chapter Five Digging Out in a Whirlwind of Contract Controversy
    (pp. 93-113)

    The massive volume of the destruction left in the wake of Katrina dwarfed all previous records of disaster wreckage in American history. Spread over a 90,000-square-mile area in three states, the storm left 118 million cubic yards of debris, a volume many times greater than the previous record set by Hurricane Andrew.³ Frank Reddish, manager of the Bureau of Recovery and Mitigation for Miami–Dade County, believed that it might take as long as five years to clear the Katrina destruction. He speculated that in the near term, the job was “more than all of the debris companies in the...

  11. Chapter Six The Grace of Volunteers
    (pp. 114-135)

    Hurricane Katrina drove Biloxi City Councilman Bill Stallworth and many other more hardened souls to prayer. It was not easy for an elected official to face thousands of threadbare, suddenly homeless constituents when there were no real answers about how their survival needs were going to be met. Almost every home in Stallworth’s East Biloxi city council ward had flooded, and in this one section of town 3,000 houses were totally destroyed. FEMA’s logistics failure meant that storm survivors in this impoverished, mainly African American and Vietnamese neighborhood were thrown onto their own resources for days on end. The improvised...

  12. Chapter Seven The Long Wait for Housing
    (pp. 136-169)

    Hurricane Katrina destroyed or rendered uninhabitable some 65,000 homes in Mississippi alone. These numbers represent an average of the high and low estimates of FEMA and the American Red Cross. In addition, the storm inflicted some degree of lesser damage onto at least another 155,384 Mississippi abodes.³ Behind the numbers are the stories of individual people who suffered great loss and often struggled for years to get back on their feet psychologically and spiritually as well as financially. By FEMA’s count, Katrina’s devastation in Mississippi left 216,558 individuals and families qualified for FEMA housing assistance,⁴ and as many as 129,600...

  13. Chapter Eight Disaster and Recovery in the Schools
    (pp. 170-190)

    In normal times teaching is a challenging profession, the success of which at any level depends in good measure on the strength of the hopeful commitments to children and the future which animate school faculties and staffs. In the aftermath of Katrina, a strong sense of mission at the local level became the driving force in the recovery of the schools and an essential counterweight to the doubts that inevitably arose from the clouded horizons of wrecked local tax bases and long delays in the FEMA funding process for the recovery of destroyed buildings. In devastated communities where 65,000 families...

  14. Chapter Nine The Great Red-Tape Battle for Public Buildings
    (pp. 191-213)

    No part of the early response phase of the Katrina disaster had been easy for anyone at any level. However, two years into the long-term recovery, the Sun Herald observed that “the recovery and rebuilding effort in the aftermath of the worst natural disaster in American history” had been “even more challenging.” The brunt of the battle to rebuild school facilities, public buildings, and infrastructure fell squarely on the shoulders of local officials and their already-overburdened cadres of county and municipal employees. Every aspect of the long-term recovery tested their endurance, their physical stamina, and the depth of their commitment...

  15. Chapter Ten Faith, Hope, and Jobs: Progress and Frustration for the Business Recovery
    (pp. 214-234)

    In the horrible topsy-turvy of the disaster aftermath, retired Air Force General Clark Griffith received a strange phone call from an employee of BancorpSouth, a call which vividly demonstrated the fragility of so many coast business enterprises after Hurricane Katrina. In 1998, Clark Griffith, a former Keesler Air Force Base commander, had settled in Biloxi and taken up consulting work for several international businesses. Griffith’s service on the boards of three local nonprofit organizations had led to his election as president of the Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce and to his being named one of the coast’s top ten community...

  16. Chapter Eleven Conclusion: A Persevering People
    (pp. 235-242)

    In the swirling wind of Hurricane Katrina and in the unprecedented 30-foot tidal surge she brought ashore, south Mississippians suffered enormous loss, but they quickly showed real grit in the face of stark scenes of death and destruction. Too many of them—confident and self-reliant survivors of lesser storms—had underestimated the forces that could converge upon them from the sea. Yet, in the aftermath, even when government bureaucracies sometimes faltered, they stood up and faced the unprecedented calamity that had befallen them with fortitude and resourcefulness. Moreover, despite the wreckage of tens of thousands of homes and businesses, they...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 243-292)
  18. Index
    (pp. 293-303)
  19. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 304-319)