Stand on the site where so many of our community received food, shelter, and expect in the years following hurricane Katrina’s onslaught.
See the Hurricane Katrina Remembrance video produced in collaboration with the City of Biloxi, watch the canteen and catering truck from which volunteers served disaster victims, pick up a”Beyond Disaster” automobile pamphlet and an emergency supply back pack!
Much focus in 2005 focused on the devastating flood that Katrina wreaked in New Orleans. However, other hard-hit towns also have stories to tell.
As Louisiana and Texas prepare for Hurricane Laura to make landfall, our principal focus is on the security of those in its course.
Laura will strike on the Gulf Coast because we remember the destruction Hurricane Katrina attracted fifteen decades back on August 29. 1 month later, Hurricane Rita devastated the region that Laura currently compromises.
Like many of you, I watched in horror as the news broadcast images of my own hometown of New Orleans under water and its residents stranded on rooftops. Katrina claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 people, flooded over a million houses and caused $161 billion in compensation. The storm displaced thousands and thousands of people, a lot of whom never returned into areas where they had lived their entire lives. Everyone here suffered, and as is too frequently true, communities of color bore a disproportionate share of that suffering. For example, a Black homeowner was more likely to reside at a flooded part of city after Hurricane Katrina. Towns across the Mississippi Gulf Coast faced the storm’s strongest side. In Biloxi, Katrina killed 53 people and destroyed nearly 20 percent of their town.
Thousands of residents sheltered locally, and many were abandoned in temporary housing afterward. More than 65,000 jobs were lost. Casino closures price Biloxi millions of dollars in earnings. Biloxi’s population dropped by 8 percent following Katrina, a loss it never recovered.
Years of challenge
Biloxi and other communities weren’t from the forests after Katrina. Other disasters followed most notably, the 2008-2009 recession as well as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon petroleum spill.
These events prolonged Katrina’s economic pain. In 2010-2011 I met Biloxians who were still working to reconstruct storm-damaged homes. Many lots sat empty, either for sale or awaiting construction.
Biloxians who wanted to return after Katrina told me about challenges they faced. Key issues included finding home; covering increasing prices for rebuilding; elevating structures to meet new flooding requirements; paying high insurance premiums; and waiting for the town to repair infrastructure and utilities.
That work is still continuing. It took six years to complete preparation and secure federal funding to the Restore Biloxi Project, a $355 million attempt to substitute water, sewer and drainage systems damaged during Katrina. In 2019 the town resisted the Federal Emergency Management Agency for refusing to pay some costs for the project, currently scheduled for completion in 2024.
Local street repairs and paving continue at the hardest hit areas. This isn’t unusual in heavily damaged areas as focus and funding priorities change as time passes. But waning support and attention are critical obstacles to rebuilding neighborhoods.
Long-term disaster recovery is never just about one event. It is a complicated lived experience of concurrently dealing with recovery, fresh disasters and everyday life.
This is particularly true across the Gulf Coast, which is often struck by hurricanes and tropical storms. Many Biloxians I talked with described how experiences with previous hurricanes — especially, Camille in 1969 — affected their Katrina decision making. One refrain I heard was”I didn’t evacuate for Katrina since I was fine in Camille.” In cases like this, past experience was a poor manual.
Some residents supported rebuilding casinos quickly after Katrina because they recalled Mississippi’s legalization of casinos in 1990 as a key point in long-term recovery from Camille. But this perception shifted with time. Critics, such as members of Coastal Women for Change, a local advocacy group, began to wonder why government officials battled casinos over nearby homes.
Before Katrina, Mississippi had required casinos to be found offshore on barges as a means of confining gambling. After the storm, the state legislature amended the law, allowing casinos to be rebuilt on land within 800 feet of the northwest. This choice gave casinos and other programmers access to land which had been formerly housed some of Biloxi’s most racially, ethnically and financially varied areas.
Map showing hurricanes strikes on U.S. coasts 1950-2017. Hurricanes frequently hit the U.S. Gulf and southern Atlantic coasts. NOAA
Believing small and neighborhood But I found in my study that Biloxians had much more favorable views of attempts by individuals, local organizations and tiny groups.
People told me about co-workers who sheltered them through prolonged waits for FEMA trailers. Local teams such as the Biloxi chapter of the NAACP and Coastal Women for Change helped people obtain supplies, child care and personal computer literacy instruction to apply for emergency assistance. Small groups of volunteers from throughout the U.S. cleaned up debris.
Local efforts do not guarantee rapid recovery, but they are crucial to people’s private and shared recoveries and well-being. Local help is typically on the floor first after crises. Organizations rooted in the community may stay longer than federal classes, and can change to meet different needs. By way of instance, Coastal Women for Change has shifted from Katrina recovery to preparedness, advocacy and retrieval from various other disasters.
Local businesses tend more clearly understand and meet local needs. Church-coordinated volunteers hung sheet rock as individuals returned to damaged houses. The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio matched experts with locals to style houses that fulfilled personal preferences. And the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency supplied”Katrina cottages” that much better matched local architecture and have been more hurricane-resistant than FEMA trailers.
What do we learn?
What exactly does Biloxi’s experience signal for other communities ravaged by disasters, if they’re hurricanes, wildfires or floods? In my view, it shows that recovery is a long-term procedure which requires ongoing support, and is shaped by local history and culture.
Viewing recovery this manner raises important questions. Who has to make rebuilding conclusions? Where does funding proceed? Are neighborhood needs being met?
State and national officials make crucial decisions regarding funding and laws related to retrieval, such as allowing casinos to rebuild on land in Biloxi. National and global NGOs can bring in much needed financial help and experience. However, when those officials and associations don’t integrate local needs and voices, local residents may stay frustrated and see their own retrieval delayed by outside decision-making, other funding priorities and competing disasters.
Every storm that strikes the Gulf Coast is unique in some manner, but a few things about the recovery process are continuous. As I see it, retrieval begins at the neighborhood level. Involving a broad and diverse set of neighborhood residents in the process and paying attention to this community’s foundation are crucial to ensure a full recovery.The Conversation
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the first article.
Every hurricane season conjures memories of the catastrophic storm 15 decades back. The Salvation Army is constantly ready to bravely serve if tragedy strike anew. Presently, the Salvation Army MS Gulf Coast has its canteen and catering truck prepared to encourage storm-impacted communities.