Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Eight months after Katrina

I'm posting again today for the first time in a while from Waynesboro, ground zero in Mississippi's never-ending struggle against treason and subversion.  I had to sign a form a couple of years ago promising that if I used the computers in the Waynesboro-Wayne County Library, I would refrain for doing various things, including anything involving treason or subversion.  I'm guessing Waynesboro must be a hotbed for that kind of thing.

I saw the Mississippi Gulf Coast for the first time yesterday since Hurricane Katrina last August.  I can't say I was surprised by the amount of damage, because I have been reading about it since the hurricane.  But I was surprised to see that there are still many buildings in Gulfport and Biloxi that are still standing there, either obviously damaged beyond repair themselves or with major portions just hanging there.

I wasn't there right after the hurricane, so I don't have a personal before-and-after comparison.  But I am surprised and disturbed by the amount of damage that has even been cleared away, much less repaired.  It seemed to me that every building I saw on the coast highway in Gulfport and Biloxi still had obvious signs of damage.

I was also in the French Quarter in New Orleans, the main tourist attraction there.  It didn't sustain a lot of damage in the first place - suprisingly given that it's right on the Mississippi River.  And I didn't see a lot of obvious damage still there.  The French Market wasn't open on Tuesday morning, but I couldn't tell if it's still not open at all.  There were also no artists or trinket sellers out around Jackson Square Park as there normally would be.

But Cafe du Monde is open and selling its trademark chicory latte and benets.  There were tourists around, but not as many as I would normally (pre-Katrina) expect.  Several places seem to have more restricted hours than normal.

But the rest of the city that I saw still shows a lot of damage.  It's hard for me to believe that most of the people who left will come back.  There's just such a long way to go to get the city repaired, and those who had to leave (I still want to call them refugees, although for some reason that I never understood that was considered to be a disparaging world somehow) are going on with theirlives: finding jobs and houses, getting their kids in school, becoming parts of new communities.

I worry about long-term health problem in both New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Check out this report, for instance:  Chicken bones washing ashore: They're no health hazard, official says by Robin Fitzgerald Biloxi Sun .  Fitzgerald reports:

Chicken bones that began washing ashore two weekends ago and again on Sunday appear to be the remnants of bagged chicken that Hurricane Katrina flung from shipping containers at the state port on Aug. 29. If authorities are correct, the bones showing up are from chicken the storm hurled into the Mississippi Sound.

"They're decomposed. There's no flesh, just bones," said Bobby Weaver, Sand Beach director.

The mess and stench of rotten meat from chicken and pork bellies raised concerns from West Gulfport residents for several months after the hurricane. Most of the vile-smelling remnants have been removed. Authorities have said they expect no long-term health problems and that water system tests show no groundwater contamination of city wells.

"We thought we kind of had the chicken issue behind us," Weaver said. "It's just one more thing we've got to deal with."

She goes on to say that only portions of the beach (which is said to be the longest man-made beach in the world) have been reopened to the public.  But people are warned to stay out of the water because of the danger of debris.

I hope they're right about the lack of danger from this.  But it's one example of the kind of unpleasant and/or dangerous after-effects that are still occurring.  And this year's hurricane season is only a couple of months or so away.

1 comment:

fdtate714 said...

While I've never been to that part of the Gulf Coast, it sounds pretty horrible from the news reports.  Still a lot of work to do.  Here's some more info you might be interested in...