Reality check on the Gulf Coast

I just got back from the Gulf Coast where I had a major reality check about the progress since Katrina. It’s like building a castle one grain of sand at a time. I will admit it’s a situation that has been out of sight and out of mind since about December. If you travel around the Waveland/Bay St. Louis area of Mississippi where the hurricane eye came ashore, you will find everything leveled. Everything! I have seen families of five people (a father, mother and three small children) living in a FEMA trailer that has less space than a 10 x 10 room. Debris is piled up high along side the road.
In New Orleans, the houses may be standing but either have to be gutted or torn down after standing in water for weeks. Look around where you live and imagine how much you might be able to salvage from your home if six feet of water stood in your home for several weeks. FEMA trailers can be seen everywhere but there is a Catch 22. They deliver the trailers but will not let anyone live in them until they’ve been hooked to electrical service up by a contractor. Some trailers have been sitting on-site, locked and unoccuppied for six weeks and longer because there is a shortage of licensed contractors. I’m told that if every contractor in the country converged on N-O at one time, it would still take years to get things anywhere back to normal. It’s hard to find restaurants that are open later than mid-evening along the gulf because they can’t find people to hire. Everyone is still working to rebuild their lives.
It’s overwhelming. It’s mind-boggling. If you want a great series for sweeps in May, go to the Gulf Coast where churches are trying to rally volunteers from around the country to help.
They’ll be glad to see you.

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4 Comments on “Reality check on the Gulf Coast”

  1. Tif Says:

    How true! Our church is currently raising money to help a family rebuild their home in Pascagoula. They were not in the flood zone but had more than five feet of water in the house. Everything had to be gutted to the studs. They’re living in a FEMA trailer 40 miles away at their parents’ home, and they have to commute each day to their jobs in Pascagoula. On weekends, they’re trying to do what they can to rebuild, but it’s enormously expensive. Imagine having to pay for all new appliances, cabinets, electrical, plumbing, and flooring–not to mention furniture! The TN tornado damage is terrible and is rightly on everyone’s minds, but we have to remember that the hurricane damage is still there, too.

    Joy

  2. Mike Ross Says:

    Joe,

    Thank you so much for this post. While the generosity and kindness of people all across the country, and especially in Memphis, has been overwhelming and so appreciated, there is a deep fear and frustration here in the New Orleans area and the Miss. coast that the rest of the nation, and especially Congress, doesn’t understand the extent of the damage, and the depth of the despair that many hurricane victims have….our biggest fear is that we’ve been forgotten…and that folks around the country think “oh, it’s been 8 months…they must have everything put back together down there by now”
    My station did a report just a couple of nights ago about people who are SLEEPING IN THEIR CARS because their homes were destroyed…they have a FEMA trailer sitting in their driveway, but THEY CAN;T GET INTO IT BECAUSE OFFICIALS WON’T GIVE THEM TRAILER KEYS BECAUSE THE ELECTRICAL HOOK-UPS HAVEN;T BEEN INSPECTED….and this is happening in summer…it’s been close to 90-degrees down here for the past couple of weeks.
    This is not supposed to happen in America.
    I think you made an excellent point…just try to imagine yourself in this position…in a home that’s been in filthy flood water for weeks. It is something people in Memphis should think about, considering the earthquake potential there….you could one day face a very similar situation…tens of thousands of damaged homes…city services in ruins…an economy knocked to its knees.
    It is easy to forget what has happened down here when you don’t see it everyday as we do. It is a trauma we can’t escape…and a new hurricane season begins June 1st.
    I hope the Memphis stations …and local stations across the nation, will follow your advice…and come back down here to show the rest of the nation what we’re still facing.
    There are thousands of hard-working Louisianians who are trying to put their lives back together…but they face a huge and unbelieveably difficult job ahead.
    Please remember them in your prayers…and please don’t forget that they need your help, and will for years to come.

    Mike Ross
    WWL TV

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Before Katrina, there was a hurricane named Andrew. Any person who lived through that terrifying and destructive experience… knows that it will take years… even a decade… for life to return to normal.

    The Gulf coast cannot expect to be rebuilt for at least the next five years. FEMA trailers were set up and served as homes for years… not months. That’s why many communities on the Gulf coast don’t want to approve utility hook ups for those trailers. They fear they will become permanent fixtures… and most likely they will.

    Clean up from a major hurricane is like nothing the human mind can digest. Governments (local, state and federa) can’t comprehend the needs, never mind anticipate needs. That is why American’s must learn to become very self-reliant. Our ancestors did it when they traveled West by wagon trains. They didn’t expect government assistance when the Indians raided their camps, or a blizzard blocked all paths to their new life.

    I sympathize with the victims of any hurricane. Why? Because I survived Andrew, Charlie, Francis, Ivan, Katrina, Rita and Wilma. I don’t know what names I’ll have to survive this year, but I know that when push comes to shove, I have only one person to count on… me.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    It took years to get over Camille in a sparsely populated Southern Mississippi.

    It will take decades to get over Katrina. Just because we are numb and worn out hearing about katrina, does not mean it is over!!!!


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