Today, January 29, 2006 marks exactly 5 months since Hurricane Katrina devastated the coastal areas of Mississippi and Louisiana. There will probably be a surge of media coverage at the 6-month point, so I guess I am ahead of the curve.
Landon Howell, who is a cousin of one of my students, Karen Howell, recently took some truly compelling pictures of the Mississippi coast five months after the storm. They show, better than any words can describe, how complete the devastation remains, nearly one half year later. You can link to his photos here. Please check them out.
As compelling as these photos are, however, they still do not convey the full scene. I was in Gulfport, Mississippi last week for a gathering of Mississippi College School of Law alumni. A lot of clean-up has taken place since August, but frankly the coast is still an absolute mess. The devastation between beachfront highway 90 and the coastal railroad track (which is about a block inland) is nearly indescribable, even 5 months after the fact. Nearly everything south of the track is just gone, and all that is left is debris.
Just north of the track, however, there is significantly less damage. And I do mean just north--as in feet. The track lies on a raised grade, and that feature helped protect buildings just to the north from the storm surge. So a house immediately north of the track would have been flooded, but being somewhat sheltered from the direct storm surge it might still be standing (but probably is condemned). But just a few houses north of that, some residents will have moved back in. And all of this is within shouting distance of the coast and its barren, gothic landscape.
There is a lot being done to help the coast, including by lawyers, law students and law schools (including mine) volunteering their time to help those on the coast in need, but a lot more needs to be done. And yet perhaps the most important contribution is being made by people like the alumni I met last week, who are doing their part by staying in their communities instead of leaving for easier lives elsewhere.