111 – mississippi blues

Typing this at 5 a.m., my usual getting-up time, while Corey sleeps in. We’re starting back to Texas today, but making it three easy days – Biloxi to Baytown, Baytown to Kerrville, and then home on Wednesday.  So, we’ll leave when we choose, and enjoy the ride.

In the end, we stayed all four nights in Biloxi. As I said in the previous post, Corey and I hadn’t seen this part of the Gulf–and it is absolutely beautiful. Thirty miles of white sand beaches from Pass Christian (pronounced kriss-tee-ANN, by the way) to Biloxi. Seriously gorgeous.

So, the first day, that’s what we were looking at, mostly. The beaches make up the south border of Highway 90, which runs along the shoreline between the two cities, and through another small town, Gulfport.

Then the next day, we started looking at what makes up the northern side of Highway 90.  And the answer to that was empty lots and realty for sale signs. Hundreds of them, no exaggeration. It slowly dawned on me that what we were seeing was the story that most of the country didn’t really hear–the damage Hurricane Katrina did outside of New Orleans.biloxi

This morning, I went looking for the pictures that I was sure were there. As Katrina made landfall in Mississippi, the massive riverboat casinos became agents of destruction. One of the historic houses, as you can see in the picture above, was pancaked under the Grand Casino riverboat. Mississippi governor Haley Barbour was quoted as saying the Mississippi coastline looked like an American Hiroshima.

Katrina hit August 31, of 2005, nearly ten years ago–so the incredible debris field and all the condemned buildings have long ago been cleaned up. All that’s visible now is one after another steel embossed sign for a historic house… and no house standing behind the sign. Next to that sign is often another that says “For Sale.”

Many, if not most, of the casinos were rebuilt, but Mississippi laws were revised to allow them to be built on land. Another post-Katrina revision that just staggered my imagination was that hurricane command centers must now be constructed at more than 30 feet above sea level.Every command center in southern Mississippi was destroyed by the storm surge that exceeded expectations.  That wall of water was aptly characterized as “our tsunami” by the Mayor of Biloxi.

I had planned to take lots of pictures, and I’ll put up a few, in the end. But we got socked in by fog yesterday, all day long. It was still beautiful–but not exactly camera-friendly.

And I think we will, most likely, be back. Seriously, if I had a couple million to burn, baby, I’d be investing in this town’s future. It’s so beautiful here, and there is much opportunity to be had–but it shouldn’t be done shoddily or cheaply. Buildings need to be solid, hurricane-proof, or at least hurricane resistant! It can be done–but it must be done well.

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