Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina--Pictures, Thoughts and Rants on a Deadly Killer!

These are pictures I've taken out and about in Ocean Springs, MS. No pictures are "borrowed" from the web. I have sent some pics in to the local newspaper via e-mail for publication, but all of these photos were TAKEN BY ME PERSONALLY, unless otherwise noted. I've lived in OS all of my life, and these are the first scenes I captured when I returned from Tallahassee, FL after Fleeing Hurricane Katrina. Come back often, as I have over 70 photos, that need to be uploaded!!!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Clean-up & Recovery--A Personal Journal from a Friend

I was finally able to speak to my Uncle and cousins in Waveland, MS. THAT town was VERY hard hit. They live off of Jeff Davis Avenue in Waveland. Our family has been crazy with worry over their fate and safety. I was also able to locate another Uncle who lived on Rossetti St. in the Biloxi Point. Imagine my incredible surprise when I ran into him at Rite Aide in Ocean Springs getting a prescription filled. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!! He was in good spirits even though his house is uninhabitable.

I've been busy helping neighbors and trying to deal with insurance and the likes. I received a journal from one of my friends that her brother kept beginning just after the storm and through helping his parents clean out the remains of their St. Andrews home in Ocean Springs. The St. Andrews area was particullary hard hit. (Seems like I keep saying that a lot!) I got permission to include his journal, so you could get a personal perspective on what the clean-up has been like.


Tuesday August 30, 2005 Day +1 Have finally found time to watch CNN. In tears, devastated, unbelievable. From mild worry about parents and their hurricanes over the past thirty years, to near panic with plans and possible courses of action. Reserved a 15’ truck one way from Santa Fe to Mobile for the Friday before Labor Day weekend. Called airlines to find out about flights back the following Tuesday the 6th. Called 17 year old son Lyle to see if he’d been watching the news and could he commit to going. He was hesitant, school just starting, job just starting, soccer just starting, senior year. Said he wanted to, really. We’d keep in touch and watch the news. Called Dean, oldest friend with a schedule ready for whatever. And he has weapons. Talked to sister Cheryl. She’s on her way. Hope she can stay, she knows the area. We may need a back roads person with Dad and his retired military id. Will try to fill up rental truck with what people may need out there and drive straight through. Need to secure a temporary/ permanent storage for whatever we can salvage. Need to plan to remove wet, potentially moldy items and get to dumps. May need to help secure their St Andrews neighborhood from looters and get house ready for whatever it needs to be. As the first house entering the subdivision it may be needed as some sort of command post or something. Will find out within 48 hours whether plan is feasible and going forward. Will talk to Dad about financing expedition. It all depends on the water going down and access being allowed. When that happens all hell could break loose.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 Day+2 E-mail to Monte Del Sol Charter School: “Carly, I would like to note that Lyle Shanahan will be out of school Friday the 2nd and Tuesday the 6th to be in Ocean Springs, Mississippi helping swamp out his grandparents house and reclaim whatever is salvageable. Many parts of their neighborhood have been leveled to the slabs, but Lyle's family's house only suffered six feet of nasty, muddy water, windows and doors still intact. The water receded relatively quickly and the one road into the subdivision is open through the bayou. The house is less than a mile from the Gulf Coast shoreline but in a relatively high spot amidst swamps and low land. Lyle and I will help sift through over thirty years of personal effects and then tear out wet carpet, drywall, insulation and anything else soft and wet. The humidity, heat, mold, and toxins will be unbelievable. Grandpa's '80 TR7 has somehow got to be saved. Family is fine and safe at an Aunt's house East of Mobile, Alabama with power and water. We fly in to Pensacola. Lyle will be taking camera gear, but lots of film would be very useful. I know it's short notice, but 35mm color and black & white film would be much appreciated. We will also both keep journals and hope to share the images and experiences with others. Thank you for your thoughts for the truly unfortunate and devastated families on the Gulf Coast.” Kim ********, Lyle's dad.

Thursday, September 1, 2005 Day+3
Scrambling around changing plans. Parents have seen the house and wanted to know how fast we could get there. Make reservations for Lyle and myself for round trip to Pensacola. Manage to reserve a rental pick-up truck. Trip to camera store for film for Lyle. Trip to Home Depot for tools and supplies. Pry bars, hammers, drywall saws, masks, gloves, flashlights, batteries, tarps, utility knives. Sister Cheryl is bringing rubber boots, hand sanitizer, heavy-duty trash bags, paper towels. Sister Kelli is on her way as well. Completely unable to concentrate on issues at work or to study Planning Commission packet for tonight’s scheduled meeting. Go to meeting and asked to be excused to pack and get ready for 6:00 am flight out of Albuquerque. Fellow commissioners understand and offer their best wishes and prayers for the family. I note that family is doing OK but that Gulf Coast could use all the prayers it can get.

Friday September 2, 2005 Day+4 Got a southern side window seat on leg from Dallas to Pensacola. Can recognize shoreline from Gulfport to Florida. See that bridge of U.S. Highway 90 connecting Biloxi to parent’s town of Ocean Springs is gone. Too high in the air to make out residential damage. Notice that barrier islands usually full of loblolly pine trees are scoured clean down to their white sandy essence. Visit 98 year-old uncle for a family reunion dinner at his convalescent home in Mobile. Things seem normal and undamaged. Winter home of Aunt in Foley Alabama is to be base camp. It is comfortable and available until she arrives in January. Golfers are getting in twilight rounds out the back door. Long lines for gasoline at stations that actually have some. Ironically, forty a cents a gallon cheaper than Santa Fe. Lyle and I sleep on the floor and get rested for the morning.

Saturday September 3, 2005 Day+5
Two hour drive to parent’s house. Get off Interstate 10 at Pascagoula and drive last 15 miles on U.S. 90. Beginning to see extent of damage. Uniformed troops in Wal-Mart parking lots. Armed soldiers keeping order in the gas lines at stations with gas. Traffic lights out. People making courteous attempts at ad hoc four way stops. Garbage and debris strewn everywhere. Arrive at house, which, except for the tree on the roof with a limb poked into the laundry room ceiling, seems intact and as I remember it from last year’s visit. It is already getting close to ninety degrees and the humidity is rising. First step into the house changes all perspective. The smell is horrible, the mold is everywhere. Black with white fuzziness. Rotting foodstuffs. A high water line has been drawn on every wall just under six feet off the slab. Everything floatable went up and then down and rearranged itself in random chaos. The refrigerator and freezer are filled with a rancid mess and are on their backs. Any container still upright is filled to the rim with bayou water and slime. The carpets are black mud, squishy and slippery. Two cars are dead and the Toyota has to be pulled out of the garage with the rented truck since it is locked in park and won’t go into neutral. The house is dark and fetid with no power or water. We open up all doors and windows and get to work. Dad has bought a two-wheeled hand truck dolly and we start dragging the big stuff out to the end of the driveway. Beds, furniture and appliances go out first. Drawers and closets full of clothes are dumped into garbage bags and are thrown onto the growing heap. Shelves full of soggy books are loaded into the wheelbarrow and added to the pile. Mom and sister Kay are tearing out pages of dozens of photo albums and laying them out into the grass to dry. Dad is rummaging through his desk for important papers and documents. He jokes about ignoring any future property tax bills, which to him borders on a sin. We break for a picnic lunch on a dry mattress laid out under a magnolia tree in the front yard. It is festooned with thirty years of collected cheap Mardi Gras beads that have inexplicably been saved in a box and now are finally ready for their last fling. Sister Cheryl hangs an American flag from the tree. Mom reminisces about how much she always enjoyed our family picnics. By days end we have cleared out two bedrooms and are half through the last one. Lyle and I make plans to pull the carpet the following day. We are stripped down to shorts and boots and are soaked to the bone with sweat. I feel the water filling up my facemask and have to tilt it back to drain the sweat. We head back to Alabama in the afternoon around three. Dad’s heart surgery last year leaves him a bit weak and dizzy after six hours of labor. The drive back on I-10 goes against the flow of traffic heading for New Orleans. Convoys of utility trucks with boom buckets are streaming in from all over the South. Lines of Humvees and military trucks have joined the parade. Flashing police escorts are leading in the semis with gas tanks. We are all glued to CNN and can’t stop watching. Talk of politics leads to disgust with the fact of the majority of the super-patriotic Mississippi National Guard being pinned down in Iraq spending precious resources on a doomed mission. It is something of a shock to hear a retired army colonel and life-long republican share in the Bush-hate of his more liberal wife and children. This event seems likely to shift the national paradigm.

Sunday September 4th, 2005 Day+6 Up early and on the road for 2 hours in the growing flow of people and goods heading west. We take a quick tour of the parent’s neighborhood before getting back to work. It was developed shortly after Hurricane Camille in1969 around a brand new golf course situated on relatively high ground. Between the development and the strip of coastal shoreline is a half-mile wide bayou of swamp grass and tributaries filled with alligators, snakes and all manner of wading birds. Four holes of the back nine front onto the bayou with homes on the other side of the fairways. Those homes are all gone and the cars left behind are strewn around the neighborhood. The three miles of homes built on stilts at the beachfront were pushed into the swamps by the 25-foot storm surge and obliterated to splinters. All had been built after Camille. A few neighbors were poking around in the debris but the area was eerily quiet. Most people had not yet made it back. Many of the homes still intact were shut tight, seemingly normal but obviously rotting from within, condensation beading up on the insides of windows. Everyday they are left unattended makes salvage less likely. Many of the residents are retired and unable to do the heavy work. And any employable workers were simply not available since it is every person for themselves with no extra hands to spare. In some ways, the people who lost everything may have it easier in the short run since there is literally nothing to haul out and sort through. Piles of garbage and household goods were showing up in the driveways of those able to get back and we joked about having a neighborhood contest to see who might make the biggest pile. Looking down my parent’s street was like seeing a massive yard sale from hell. We continued our excavation and got most of the precious family antiques into the garage to be brought back to a storage unit rented near the temporary house in Alabama. The antiques fared the best of all the furniture since they were built of solid wood with no particleboard or plywood. 20th century furniture simply fell apart and crumbled to pieces. Some of the antiques had been in the family since the 1700s and have been passed from one generation to the next. Lyle and I began cutting the soggy carpet into strips and hauling it out to the pile. Mom and sisters wrapped and boxed the good china and knick-knacks. Dad made on the spot decisions about what to keep and what to throw. Most of it was throw. The parents had been talking for a while about the need to downsize and consider a no-maintenance condo in the area. Katrina was making that an easy decision.

Monday September 5, 2005 Day+7
The rest of the rooms were finally emptied and all carpet pulled up. Lyle and I began removing the bottom four feet of the drywall on the exterior walls and pulling out the soggy insulation. More stuff for the pile. We seem to be in the running for the biggest mound of garbage contest. Bathtub tiled walls were removed as well as a wall of built-in bookcases in the living room to get to the wet insulation. Moldy sheets of paneling were ripped out of the family room. The house was drying up enough that masks didn’t seem quite as necessary any more. The idea was to try and remove as much wet material as possible so at least the structure could be salvageable and sold in an as-is condition for pennies on the dollar. Dad had hurricane insurance and household content insurance but no flood insurance, since in 30 years of seeing hurricanes come and go their house had never suffered any water damage. Complacency always has its price. No one was sure how the adjusters might rule on the water. Was it really a flood or was it storm surge caused by a hurricane? It is likely some of the homes still closed will be so full of toxic mold that it seems certain they will need to be burned and bulldozed down to vacant lots. We were trying to at least leave a structure that some younger family with energy or a speculating contractor might see some value. There will be plenty of homeless people looking for something. It is going to be a seller’s market if they can find people who still want to live in the area. We had done about as much as we could do and had to leave the next evening.

Tuesday September 6, 2005 Day+8 Lyle and I made one last run down the coast. I had promised him we would try to make it in to Biloxi to get some photos he could turn into a school project. We were running out of time and traffic was backed up while a causeway bridge was being repaired on I-10 across the Pascagoula River. We got around the jamb and made it into Biloxi and managed to get down to Coast where monstrous casinos had sprung up in the last decade. The gaming industry in Mississippi is wiped out, which many down there will undoubtedly chalk up to God’s righteous retribution to a sinful phenomenon. Biloxi looks bombed. We only had about a half an hour. The working class back bay neighborhoods where full of smashed houses, downed trees and power lines and filled with boom trucks cutting limbs and re-setting power poles. People sat on their front porches looking shell-shocked and sweaty in the heat. Rescue officials, police and military were in evidence but we drove around without question. We both wished we had days more to observe, document and help but we had to get back. One last load to the storage unit and we were on the road running late to the airport. We got behind a pick-up truck going 95 mph and followed him into Pensacola and turned the truck in on time. I was going to mention to Lyle how I had yet to see any traffic-patrolling police on the interstate since they had other obvious priorities elsewhere, but I didn’t for fear of jinxing the situation. The flight back was uneventful and we got back into Santa Fe around midnight. As we were heading down St Francis drive coming off 599 we were pulled over by Officer Kenneth Martinez at the bottom of the hill for being clocked going 65 in a 45 mph zone. We explained we had just got back from a long weekend on the Gulf Coast. He said he and 20 other Santa Fe Police were heading to New Orleans after fiestas. He let us off with a warning. We thanked him and wished him good luck. He will need it, more storms are brewing in the Atlantic and hurricane season has two months to go.

NOTE: Just a reminder that this was not my journal/ was from one of my best friend's brother (who I obtained permission from to post it). This personal account is of cleaning out a home in the St. Andrews area of Ocean Springs.


Blogger shanahan said...

Thanks Becky....

3:33 PM  

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