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Hurricane Katrina: The Deadly Calm

Church in Ruins-Copyright 2005 D.E. Mac McGuffee


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     Katrina Journal Update

May 2009

Hurricane Katrina and The Mississippi Coast

     Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi coast on August 29, 2005, and left in her wake the largest U.S. natural disaster in decades. The coastal regions of Louisiana and Mississippi were decimated. From Point Cadet to Waveland the Mississippi coast resembled a war zone. This storm took away precious lives, homes of thousands, churches, schools, favorite restaurants, businesses and many historic landmarks. Massive structures of concrete and steel were no match for the 28-30 foot storm surge of Katrina. The US 90 bridge between Biloxi and Ocean Springs resembled a giant accordion. Many of the large casinos once moored on the water rested broken on dry land. Katrina took away jobs and devastated the local economies. Clean up is ongoing and based on the destruction, will take years to complete.

     I am old enough to remember when Hurricane Camille hit the Mississippi Coast in 1969. As devastating as Camille was, "she was a sissy compared to Katrina" according to my 89 year old aunt who survived with a broken neck and fractured arm. Survivors described the calm after the storm as deadly as the flood waters and wind that completely wiped away entire communities. A week after the storm thousands were still without food and water or a safe place to sleep.. As if all of this was not enough, survivors battled fatigue from the 90 degree plus temperatures, humidity, insects, infections, and those that prey upon the helpless. Many who survived the Hurricane were concerned they would not survive the calm after the storm.

     Outside of the disaster zone there was an abundance of food, water, and other staples. The problem that plagued emergency management teams from the start was getting the lifesaving materials to the survivors as quickly as possible. Katrina caused a massive disaster requiring a massive and immediate response.

     There were literally thousands of heroic men and women from Mississippi, Louisiana and from across this nation struggling against time to reach the survivors. The local police and fire departments, Highway Patrol, National Guard, Coast Guard as well as other governmental agencies and selective military forces, once organized and in place, began working to restore order, airlifting and evacuating survivors, setting up food and water stations as well as and doing house to house searches. Fuel shortages were a reality for everyone causing 3 to 6 hour waits at gas stations that had fuel outside the disaster zone. Curfews and armed military were placed to control sightseers and looters. State agencies worked around the clock to get water and sewage treatment systems repaired. Energy providers worked tirelessly to remove fallen trees and restore power. Many of them ate and slept in their trucks as they worked to restore some sense of normalcy. Neighbors helped neighbors. Schools and churches, left standing, became temporary homes for thousands. Neighboring states and other civic groups opened their hearts and doors for the thousands displaced. It was a positive beginning.

     In the weeks and months following Katrina, the emotionally and financially drained survivors would once again have to deal with adversity. This time the ill winds would come from insurance carriers, fraudulent builders, assorted scam artists, certain rebuilding ordinances and corporate greed. In a better world there would be an equal playing field for all.

     The following images are a limited selection from hundreds taken during my coverage of the Mississippi Coast from Point Cadet to Pass Christian. Due to time constraints the majority of our coverage was limited to selected areas facing the bay and gulf. The images tell only a small part of the story of Katrina's fury and destruction along the Mississippi coast. Unlike Louisiana, the flood waters from Katrina quickly receded from the Mississippi coast once the Hurricane force winds subsided. However, like Louisiana, the destruction was catastrophic in terms of lives and property lost.

     As press/editorial photographers, we have a trusted obligation and responsibility to document without deceit. When documenting responsibly, our images may create a wide range of emotions from joy to sorrow and even horror. There are thankfully, times when our images help improve our world and the plight of our fellow man. There will also be times when the opposite is true. While an image of a family in tears as they sift through the rubble of what once was their home may make a great story, the image will do little to lessen their loss and grief or promote healing unless it is seen and acted upon by those who can make a positive difference. It remains a matter of conscience whether we choose to take the shot or not.

     We owe a debt of gratitude to city and county personnel for their assistance in providing valuable information and unencumbered access. Special thanks to Don K. Johnson of Brandon, Mississippi. Don not only handled the difficult task of navigating us safely around the devastation, but also worked tirelessly as equipment handler and documentarian.

D. E. Mac McGuffee

     Images Now Available for Editorial and Publication Licensing.

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Copyright 1999-2009 D. E. Mac McGuffee. All Rights reserved. All images and text are the intellectual property of D. E. Mac McGuffee and are protected by the United States and International copyright laws. Postal address: P. O. Box 2128, Brandon, Mississippi 39043. Central Mississippi Phone 601-955-9416. Fax 601-591-1808. Mississippi Gulf Coast 228-832-2913. Email: