Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics


Four years ago I can say, without cliche, my life changed.

I lived in Ocean Springs, MS at the time, just to the east of Biloxi.  I went to school in Gulfport just to the west of Biloxi.  I traveled US 90 almost on a daily basis.  I knew the area, having lived there twice actually (long story), very well.  Highway 90 follows the Gulf Coast beach.  It is one of only two ways to go East/West along the southern portion of Mississippi.  Don’t take Highway 90 if you’re in a hurry, though.  Oy.  Tourists and stop lights.

We had just started the new semester; I recall that we had one or two days of class.  Of course, we were all trying to figure out which path Katrina would take while making plans to stay in town or bug out.  I had pretty well decided to stay.  Of all the excuses I could come up with none is truer than that I just wanted to know what a hurricane was like.  The sick cat and old car were considerations but merely convenient excuses if the truth is really told.

I sincerely thought that we’d have a couple of days of inconvenience and then everything would be back to normal.  I remember that The Constant Gardener with Ralph Fiennes was due out the following Thursday.  Since I love Mr. Fiennes I was all gung-ho to see that movie.  No, I still haven’t seen it.

I did board up the windows.  That’s a pain in the ass.  I bought lots of bottled water.  I chose canned Spaghetti-Os, cookies, and such to eat.  I don’t mind cold Chef Boyardee; call me strange.  I also gassed up the car because the authorities said gas could be difficult to get after the storm.  Heh!

I went to bed Sunday, August 28th pretty much unconcerned.  Call me a dumbass.  I remember the power went out at almost exactly 4:00am.  That would be the last of that for awhile.

The next morning didn’t start out too bad.  Of course, “morning” is subjective ’cause I don’t do 7:00am.  More like 10 or 11 for me.  I spent most of the day in the bed.  Not much else to do without power.  I remember I read, but don’t ask me what.  Luckily, I had put one board out of whack in the bedroom so I had a bit of room to peak out to watch the storm.  Now having that sliver of outside world would probably have driven me nuts.  I saw siding and roofing tiles fly by.  I watched my neighbors’ roofs come apart.  I watched privacy fences fall.  I wondered what my house would look like when the storm was done.

I felt the wall shake under my hand.  I felt my heart race as I wondered what in the world I had done by staying.

I cried when a couple of days later the little old Red Cross guy came down the street like the ice cream man with water and ice.  I felt guilty that he had to do that for us morons who stayed.

I cried when my brother drove down with his father-in-law (whom I had never met) because he was worried when they couldn’t reach me.

I cried when we first ventured out and saw the terrible destruction.  The Mississippi Gulf Coast that I knew was gone.  Tacky souvenir shops that I hated I now missed.  Stately homes with beautiful Magnolia trees reduced to so much trash.  Even Jefferson Davis’s home that I had, as a good Yankee, refused to go to was largely rubble.

I was miserable trying to sleep on the front porch in Mississippi in August because it was impossible to sleep indoors.

I cried, and still cry, for Jack.  My first pet, my “big boy” who was sick before the storm and died because vet services were impossible to come by.

I left Mississippi.  I had never planned to stay.  But part of me will always remember those people with whom I suffered, worked, and in some small way rebuilt our little part of Mississippi in defiance of Katrina.

I have posted pictures that mean something to me.  I did not take them and truly thank those who did so that we don’t forget.

Hurricane Katrina

Katrina would head about due north at this point.  New Orleans is just to the right of the 30.

Hurricane Katrina Storm Surge Map (hurricanekatrina)

I lived just about where the dark yellow and the light yellow meet.  Ocean Springs was relatively lucky; a lot of communities were hit much worse than us.

Storm debris

You would find debris strewn all along the railroad tracks which parallel Highway 90.

1st Baptist Gulfport after Katrina

A lot of buildings were wiped out on the lower levels as the surge swept through and took everything with it.

Storm surge took everything but the roof.

Post Hurricane Katrina Mississippi

This is part of Highway 90 in Biloxi.  I can’t tell you everything that used to be there but there was a Waffle House (sign still standing), a KFC, a Taco Bell, and a Shell gas station.

Post Hurricane Katrina Mississippi

I had eaten at the Bombay Bicycle Club alot the first time I lived in Biloxi.  I believe it had closed or was due to close when Katrina hit.  Didn’t matter by the time she left.

Ocean Springs Bridge

The Ocean Springs Bridge linked Ocean Springs with Biloxi along Highway 90.  I would guess it was about a mile long.  Most of the sections were torn apart during the storm.  The first picture of the bridge has Biloxi in the background.  Those large buldings are the hotels for the casinos.  You can also see, to the right of the streetlight, a domed building that is slightly askew.  That is was the Palace Casino which is not on the Gulf at all.  I cannot imagine the wind and water that it took to damage that structure.

Ocean Springs Bridge, Biloxi side

reasure Bay Casino, Biloxi

This is what was left of the Treasure Bay Casino.  It is hard to get a sense of how big the boat was but it was a good sized casino.  Katrina ripped through that and picked it clean.

Gulfport Grand Casino

This is the Grand Casino in Gulfport actually in the middle of Highway 90.  The storm picked that barge up and moved the whole thing 20-40 yards.

Post Hurricane Katrina Mississippi

Beauvoir, last home of Jefferson Davis

Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis’s last home, before Katrina.

Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis' Home, Mississippi Gulf Coast

Two years after Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina - Biloxi - Sharkheads

I used to hate the Sharkshead sovenir store.  Giant, tacky, pink with an enormous shark’s head.  I’d give anything for that store to be the way it was now.

Hurricane Katrina Aftermath: Mississippi Gulf Coast Curiously Mangled Lighthouse and Palm Tree

The Biloxi lighthouse.  It sits in the median of Highway 90.  That the lighthouse was still standing meant alot to us.  I was amused that the palm fronds and pine tree branches were all stuck pointing north from the wind.  My brother was not so amused.

Still Alive

Bellefountaine/St. Andrews Mississippi Beachfront Obliterated

This neighborhood is not that far from where I lived, although I was not that close to the beach.  A friend of mine had a house down the street from where this picture was taken.  When she and her husband left their house to go to Jackson they knew they would lose everything they left behind.  I don’t know that they ever came back.

This is it for me.  I won’t forget, ever, that hellish week after Katrina.  I won’t forget the rebuilding that has been done and hope for that which still waits to be done.  But I won’t commemorate any more.  I’ll probably always pause when the significance of the date occurs to me, much like I do on the date of my mother’s passing.  But it’s time to look forward to the rest of my life.  I have other stories still to be written.


  1. Hollede

    It was hard to read because I have had a couple of (similar???) experiences. I went through the big flood and fire in Grand Forks, ND in 1997 and was evacuated from our home in Iran in 1979 during the revolution. I am currently trying to write a diary about my life in Iran.

    Such traumatic events make an indelible mark on us that never goes away. All we can do is pick up the pieces and on move on, hopefully stronger than before.

    The thing that has always surprised and gratified me during these sort of catastrophes is the kindness of friends and strangers.  

    I am glad that you are ready to move on from this, and understand why you will never forget.

  2. Being the anniversary I’ve been watching pieces on Katrina and thinking about that weekend.  A few friends were up at our house (this was when we lived at the lodge north of Toronto) and they were not at all interested in watching the news coverage of the storm as it marched across the gulf.  For my part I couldn’t tear myself away.  

    Living in Canada made me more sensitive to things that happened to my country, and it seemed that there was always a disaster of some sort threatening or actually harming the US while Canada whistled through life.  I have to say that the passive (and in some cases active) indifference of my friends to the looming calamity down south bothered me to no end.  There was a lot of not-really-joking commentary about America getting what it had coming to it (you will recall that this was about the same time that the most rabid anti-Americanism was most popular outside the country) and I was glad on Sunday night to see them all go home.

    It was such a perfectly round storm, not the usual damaged individual we are used to seeing.  I was well aware of how vulnerable New Orleans itself was, not to mention the simple fact that a storm of this magnitude would erase anything it hit even if it wasn’t particularly at risk (you’ll remember that it was a Cat 4 until just before the eye made landfall, though it is remembered as a Cat 3).

    As the story unfolded that week and the tragedy on the ground was compounded by the tragedy of the response, both Donna and I were frustrated by our own inability to do anything as well as by the continuing callousness of many people around us.  Sure, many individual Canadians expressed sympathy and the country as a whole sent aid and assistance south, but there were entirely too many flippantly coarse comments and too much outright cynical glee to ignore.  A single equivalent response to a disaster like the Indian Ocean Tsunami would have been received with outrage, but since it happened to the States the snark and criticism was apparently socially acceptable at some level.

    Katrina was not the first nor the least of events to sharpen my own criticism of my on-again off-again host country.  While I remain a supporter and admirer of Canada as a whole and many of its citizens in particular, Katrina will always remind me of the ease with which so many there are eager to criticize any mote in the American eye while ignoring the beam in their own.

  3. I was with you there HappyinVT when the storm came in, and you watched through the crack in the window, and felt the walls shake.

    I felt the wall shake under my hand.  I felt my heart race as I wondered what in the world I had done by staying.

    I cried when a couple of days later the little old Red Cross guy came down the street like the ice cream man with water and ice.  I felt guilty that he had to do that for us morons who stayed.

    I cried when my brother drove down with his father-in-law (whom I had never met) because he was worried when they couldn’t reach me.

    I cried when we first ventured out and saw the terrible destruction.

    Nature is such a powerful thing, and at moments like you went through, we realise our lives our so fragile, and everything we build, our homes, our security, our empires, our malls, our plans, our ivory towers, our prison cells, our paradises, our vulnerable….

    Like a face drawn on the sand which the waves will wash away.

    How can we hate each other; how can Red States hate Blue States (or vice versa), how can Christians hate Gay People (or vice versa), how can Canada hate the US (or vice versa), when we are all so fragile and vulnerable as this?

  4. creamer

    And the Hagee’s and Robertson’s can always turn that force into a good god fearing sermon. I understand that the Army Corp of Engineers and local politians bear some blame for the failure of the man made barriers. But what struck me was our governments failure to act prior to landfall, and the total inadequate response imediately following the storm. I also remember seeing maps and graphs of how the thinning of the swamps and wetlands below New Orleans contributed to the disaster.

    I think our biggest lesson should be a renewed appreciation of how we alter our world at our peril.

    Very good diary Happy. Thanks.

  5. to this day – i don’t believe that most people outside of the gulf coast area and its direct neighbours really understand the destruction that was caused by katrina. so thank you for an inside look at this disaster. its hard to even fathom to think about all of things that got swallowed up and will never return.

    as to chris’ experience about the canadian response to katrina, im saddened to hear that. however – my expereience is completely different. i recall quite clearly that amongst everyone i know, in the street, and media, the response was shock and horror for our neighbours. also seeing large groups of canadians dropping everything to head down to help, outpouring of money and supplies heading south….

    perhaps what i did find the most revolting about katrina however was the US governments’ response to it. i’ll never forget that my family i were sitting watching cnn seeing images from new orleans baffled trying to understand why they weren’t doing anything.

    anyway if anyone hasn’t yet, check out spike lee’s when the levees broke: a requiem in four acts – a must see.

  6. sricki

    A friend of mine stayed in New Orleans through Katrina — took her a week to get out, and she was very, very lucky. My apartment became something of a flop house for a couple of months after the storm — several friends from NO ended up staying with me.

    My heart goes out to you — and to everyone who struggled and still struggles from the fallout.

  7. Hollede

    Was the worst disaster to hit an American city until Katrina devastated MS, LA and New Orleans. By the end of it some 90% of the residents of the two cities had to be evacuated. Here are a few clips from news casts at the time.

    We knew we would need to be evacuated at some time. We had packed both vehicles, but were still surprised by the swiftness of the river’s rise.

    We had hoped to get our basement emptied and had friends coming over one Friday April 18, but the National Guard banged on our door at 4 am Friday morning and told us the dike had failed and we needed to get out.

    We went to a motel on the edge of town, far away from the rising waters, but again were evacuated the next day as all power and water failed in the city.

    We then went to stay with friends in Northwood for a couple of nights. We watched the news in horror as downtown Grand Forks burned.


    From there we went to my partners mothers home in Hazen. I then went to stay with my parents in Colorado.

    We were unable to get back into our home for several weeks. Then the clean up began.

    We thought we would rent a place in Crookston, MN, but that did not work out and ended up living at our house without water or electricity for a couple of months.

    Everyone helped everyone. We all listened to the radio, searched for ice and water and food.

    We were lucky. We only had basement flooding, but the power of the waters cracked our foundation and popped all of the windows. Two months without water and electricity took another toll on our house. We also had purchased flood insurance in the nick of time.

    The Grand Forks Herald never missed a day of publishing. They won a Pulitzer for their work.

    The radio station never left the air. It was our only source of information and communication for many months during the aftermath of the flood.

    I used to live on Lincoln Park Rd. The house we rented for several years was completely destroyed. We had bought a house not far from there and even though it was sitting atop the highest point in GF, we suffered massive damage.

    We did live close to the river and were eligilble for the $2,000.00, but were unable to get there in time. Dear friends split their money with us.

    Thank you again, Mayor Pat Owens.

    Thank you again President Clinton, FEMA, The Red Cross and everyone else who helped us. Not one life was lost and I consider Grand Forks to be very lucky that the nation and government and private help agencies gave so much.

    Sorry about hijacking your diary. Your story brought all of this rushing back to me and I felt compelled to share the story again.

    Thank you for indulging me.

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