Background. In January 2005 we moved from Bristol,
Tennessee, to Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi. I April 2005 we purchased a
lot in Waveland, MS and, in August, started construction on a house. We
were living in an apartment in Bay Saint Louis, building the house in Waveland,
and most of our belongings were stored in a commercial storage facility in Pass
Christian, MS. (Follow this link for
the story of our home construction.) On 29 August 2005, the Mississippi
Gulf Coast was hit by Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 hurricane with 165 MPH
winds and a storm surge that ranged from 20 to 35 feet high. Most of the
Mississippi Gulf Coast was destroyed; not damaged, not devastated, but
destroyed. Consider this:
The town of Waveland, where we were building, simply no longer
exists. From the beach inland 1/2 mile there is not a single structure
standing, everything was washed away by the storm surge. Anything
still standing in the town was gutted by the flood.
The town of Pass Christian had approximately 8,000 homes.
After the hurricane, approximately 500 were still standing, most of those
will be bulldozed because they were under 20 feet of water and are
To better understand what happened to us, let's start with a map of the area,
a review of how the winds blow around the eye of a hurricane, and the elevation
of the Gulf Coast.
UPDATE and request for information:
We were building a house at 124 Whispering Pines Dr., Waveland, MS. If you
are or were a resident of Waveland living south of the CSX tracks -- especially
if you lived on Whispering Pines or one of the neighboring streets -- we would
like to hear from you. Where are you? What are your plans?
What have you heard from anyone else who lived south of the tracks? If you
are selling or have sold your lot or property south of the tracks, we'd like to
hear from you -- we are planning to sell our lot (with the slab on it) and we
have some questions about property values and the like. Send us an
e-mail. Thanks. (17 May 2006)
This is the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The black arrow is Katrina's track
-- on 29 August 2005 the eye of the hurricane passed directly through Hancock
Remember that the wind circulation around a hurricane is
COUNTERCLOCKWISE. Follow the track of the storm (black arrow) and
you will see that the wind blew directly off the Gulf of Mexico onto the Gulf
Coast (red arrows) -- this is why the storm
was so destructive -- the winds came unobstructed off the water, driving a wall
of water 20 - 35 feet high, moving at almost 100 MPH. Imagine a bulldozer
with a blade 35 miles wide, 20 - 35 feet high, moving at 100 MPH. That's
what hit the Gulf Coast. Also, this counterclockwise motion is one of the
reasons New Orleans was flooded so badly. Get a map of New Orleans and you
will see Lake Ponchatrain lying north of the city. Because Katrina passed
east of NO, the winds blew into NO from the North, off Ponchatrain into the city, driving water from the
lake into New Orleans.
Another factor contributing to the destruction is the elevation
of the Gulf Coast, or, rather, the lack of elevation. Bay Saint Louis is
one of the highest areas between Pensacola, FL, and Galveston, TX -- and the Bay
(as it is called locally) is between 20 and 30 feet above Mean Sea Level (MSL).
Old town Bay Saint Louis is (was, before Katrina) arrayed along Beach Boulevard,
on top of a 20-30 foot high bluff.
As you move south from Bay Saint Louis to Waveland, Lakeshore,
and Bayside Park, the elevation drops to only a few feet above MSL. Areas
below Waveland are actually marshland with a few high spots that rise 2-6 feet
above the marsh -- where people have built houses. I was
building a house
on Whispering Pines Drive in Waveland. My lot was 1,000 feet back from the
beach and was surveyed at 15.7 feet above MSL -- and mine was considered a high
Thus, when a 35 foot high wall of water was driven off the Gulf,
Bay Saint Louis was flooded with water in buildings from 4 to 20 feet deep,
depending on where in the Bay the building was located. Our apartment was
1/2 block off the beach at one of the highest points; we have 4-5 feet of water
in the apartment. In Lakeshore, the water was 35 feet deep.
We heeded the hurricane warnings and evacuated on Sunday, 28
August. Along with family members, we took a convoy of four cars to
Laurel, MS. We did not realize it, but the storm tracked directly north,
passing over Laurel, still at hurricane strength. We spent Sunday and
Monday nights (28 and 29 August) in a hunting lodge in the pine woods north of
Laurel. Hurricanes spawn tornadoes and the place we were staying was hit
by 4 - 6 tornadoes -- several trees fell onto the lodge, trees blocked all roads
and highways, power was out, as were phones.
On Tuesday, I located a chain saw and cut the trees that were
blocking the driveway. We had to leave the lodge because we had no
electricity and no water. And, because the lodge was located in a deep
rural area, we knew we would be one of the last areas to be restored. We
struck out driving to our relatives' home below Donaldsonville, LA. We did
not realize until we got well underway just how extensive the destruction was.
As you read this, get out a road map of Mississippi -- draw a line through
Jackson, MS, running east and west across the state. Below that line, for
weeks after the hurricane, there was NO electricity and NO phone service
(Remember, cell phones depend on landlines to operate, thus, my cell phone would
show strong signal, but could not connect because the phone network was
destroyed.). As we drove toward Louisiana, we began to realize there was
nothing operating -- without electricity, everything was shut down --
restaurants, shops, stores, traffic lights, and gas pumps. We finally
arrived at our relatives' homes with four cars running on fumes and six very
hungry, tired people.
On Wednesday, 31 August, Rose and I drove from Donaldsonville,
LA, to Bay Saint Louis. East of Donaldsonville, LA, there was no
electricity, no gas, nothing open, trees down -- and as we went west the
intensity of destruction increased. We arrived at in Bay Saint Louis to
No gas, no electricity, no water, nothing but destruction.
Bay Saint Louis and the surrounding area for mile upon mile
was a scene of total destruction -- houses smashed by the storm surge,
debris piled solid for miles, trees snapped off or uprooted, cars tossed
around and piled randomly around, boats in the tops of trees, dead animals,
and everything covered with a layer of mud.
Some streets were partially open where local people had
driven bulldozers down streets to get them somewhat open.
Our apartment had been flooded and was now covered with mud,
six inches deep.
Our 1989 Nissan pickup had been submerged and was ruined.
On Thursday, 1 September, my cousin's son, his friend, and I
went back with a 16-foot trailer. We retrieved from the apartment some
wooden furniture -- three tables, six chairs, top of a cupboard. On
Friday, 2 September, we went back with the trailer and took out the grandfather
clock and all the dishes. Everything else in the apartment was lost:
Clothing was wet and molded.
Shoes were covered with mud and molded.
Stainless steel and iron cookware was pitted and corroded
from being submerged in salt water.
Anything electrical was ruined, inoperative.
Food was ruined, except for canned food, which we donated to
people who had stayed behind and who were now running out of food.
In the bedrooms, the chests of drawers holding our clothes
had been submerged and were now waterlogged. Drawers were impossible
to open, the wood had swelled and was now splitting, and mold was growing
Anything made of paper or cloth was ruined -- completely
wet, now covered with fast-growing mold or mud -- including books, financial
records, legal records, and the like.
When we evacuated, we thought we would be back in the apartment
and back to normal, thus, we took with us only a couple of changes of clothes,
one extra pair of shoes, and a book to read. In the following weeks while
living in Louisiana, we managed to:
Two weeks later, on 16 September, the town of Pass Christian was
opened and we were able to get to our storage unit. The unit had been
under 20 feet of water and everything inside was ruined from submersion, mud,
and from sitting in the heat wet and muddy for three weeks. In the storage
unit we lost:
Rose is a quilter; she had accumulated a lifetime of antique
quilts, she had several quilts she had made, and she had a vast collection
of fabric for quilts. All of this was destroyed -- quilts, all her
quilting tools, all quilting fabric.
All our family photo albums.
Washer and dryer.
Artwork -- framed paintings and prints.
Books -- 18 cartons of books, much of our personal library.
Tools -- big Sears Craftsman roll-around tool chest full of
tools; power tools; gasoline leaf blower and weed eater.
8-inch reflector telescope and all accessories.
Secretary desk that had been custom made for us in Taiwan in
the late 1970's.
Material to be used in our new house -- two water heaters,
sinks, faucets, nine ceiling fans, electrical fixtures.
As of mid-October, we had moved back to East Tennessee and are
living in an apartment in Knoxville, a few blocks from my parents. Our
insurance company (United Services Automobile Association) paid off quickly --
we got book value on the 16-year-old truck and we got the full value of our
policy limit for personal possessions. We are now replacing a few of the
lost items and trying to decide what to do next.
Here are links to photographs that we took of the wreckage left
by Hurricane Katrina.
Aerial photos of the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Here is an excellent site -- it's filled with aerial photos of
the Mississippi Gulf Coast. If you are from the Coast, you will likely
recognize locations in these photos -- however -- if you are from the Coast and
have not seen the totality of the destruction, be warned that it's not like you
remember it. Go to this link:
http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/psds/katrina.htm where you will
find a map of highlighted areas. Click on a highlighted area to see aerial
photos of that area.
Links to sites with photos and stories from Bay Saint Louis and
Many people from Bay Saint Louis and Waveland have posted their
experiences and photos on various websites. Here are links to a few --
I'll add more as I find them.