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Day 141 - Mississippi Katrina Damage

We drove the coast Hwy 90 for miles and miles, seeing only rebuilt casino's and empty slabs where homes used to stand. We drove through Bay St. Louis and had lunch, where the eye of Katrina landed

overcast 58 °F

First, a word on the weather. It really was much nicer today then yesterday - but before you throw in your beach towel and head to the Gulf Coast, take a look at the water hose across from our camp site this morning. Not quite Michigan (or anywhere in the north central US), but...


Yesterday, as we turned off the freeway to head to the Davis Bayou campground, we saw a couple of boarded up buildings. That's not totally abnormal for old business districts, so we weren't sure if they were just old, abandoned buildings or hurricane damage. After today, I'm pretty sure it was the latter.

Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast on August 29, 2005, about two and a half years ago. Shortly after we pulled back onto Hwy 90, we crossed a bridge into Biloxi itself where the Highway started to run along the waterfront. There were a few spanking new casino's such as this:


The small Biloxi Lightouse also seems to have survived.


Across the road however, where the whole coast used to be lined with luxury waterfront mansions or restaurant's and hotels - were empty lots. Occasionally we would see a new home or construction activity, but mostly just empty lots. If we looked closely, we could see remains of driveways and sometimes concrete slabs where homes used to be. Most of the badly damaged buildings have been removed, but we also saw a few that haven't, maybe because they're considered 'rebuildable'.


I didn't notice at first, but we also didn't pass any gas stations for many miles. A few small chain restaurants were open, most looked like they'd only recently been opened for business. There were also quite a few 'For Sale' signs and 'Coming Soon' signs, so some redevelopment is starting to occur. However, it's depressing the extent of the damage still visible over two years after the hurricane struck.

We went over a very new bridge into Bay St. Louis, where Hwy 90 again turns away from the coast a bit. I decided to drive through the town since the Ranger at Davis Bayou had told us that Hwy 90 had been cleaned up and to really see the results of Katrina, you had to get off the main road.

Bay St. Louis turns out to be where the eye of the hurricane came ashore. The new bridge has only recently been completed, so the city was largely cut off from the main gulf coast traffic for two years. Many volunteers have come from around the globe to help the town rebuild, but it's a long way from being fully recovered. Before the storm, there were 3,600 people in the core old town area, a quaint city of arts and crafts shops. At least 25% of those have not returned. In spite of all the help they've received, these are just a few of the common scenes we saw as we drove through.


Mom & I had lunch at a cute little restaurant (Mom thinks it was called 'The Buttercup'. I of course forgot to take a picture of it). The food was good and the prices quite reasonable. The waitress, Dawn, also endulged us a few questions. She was fortunate in that her house was damaged, but salvagable. She has received FEMA grants and an SBA loan to help rebuild her framing shop - but of course there aren't as many customers as there used to be. She said she recently took a trip to the Hard Rock Cafe' in Biloxi and was so depressed seeing all the damage, that she doesn't think she can drive that road again. And that's coming from someone who knew what it looked like before.

I'd never heard of Bay St. Louis before, but it will be hard to forget this little town and the damage it suffered.

Somewhat depressed, Mom and I headed back up to I-10 to complete our voyage for today. I had made reservations at a really nice membership campground north of Lake Pontchartrain to get some rest and some things caught up, so for a change we actually knew where we were heading tonight. Just before we crossed into Louisiana, we stopped at a Visitor's Center that also listed a NASA Stennis Space Center - which sounded interesting. It turns out they are closed on Sunday, but it's where they test rocket engines. But they did put one of the Lunar Landers up on stilts at the Visitors Center. I thought it was just a sculpture, but then read the sign that explains it is actually the unit the Apollo astronauts trained on.


We were still a little too early to check into the campground, so drove down to the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The hurricane damage in this area didn't seem as bad as what we'd seen in Mississippi, but that's not true further south in New Orleans of course. At least from the lakeshore we could see that the causeway was open, we could see cars driving on it.


So with that little side trip, we headed up to the campground. I paid a couple dollars extra to use their wifi, then found out my data card worked just fine here. Without talking to Sprint, I'm guessing that along the Gulf Coast, they haven't repaired all the damage to their cell phone infrastructure so I was just getting limited internet service as a result. I don't know, but think I'll blame it on Katrina for now.


Miles Driven - 106
Camped at Abita Springs - Resorts of Distinction Campground

Posted by jl98584 11:48 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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