Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Reflections on Hurricane Season 2005, Part Two

Here is my second article generated by my recent tour of the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Louisiana to inspect 2005 hurricane damage and what has been done in the aftermath. On Wednesday, August 29, 2007, two years after Katrina hit, President Bush toured New Orleans and Bay St. Louis to commemorate the occasion, but also to play up progress in rebuilding the Gulf Coast through the aegis of the federal government. This left me rather cold and cynical, because, having written these articles only several months ago, I know that the Feds, more often than not, have subverted and perverted progress, whether through privatization ideologies and cynical demographic calculations touted by Neocon/Neoliberal think-tanks, or through racism, corruption, cronyism and just pure ineptitude. As you read this entire series, you will understand better what I mean. Here, then, is the second article, originally written in late April:


Hidden in the Bayous

Katrina damaged or destroyed thousands of trees, including in Ocean Springs

As I continue my series about the Gulf Coast, we take a look at lingering hurricane destruction in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, a typical Gulf Coast city where much of the damage is really hidden from the casual tourist. You have to go off the beaten path, so to speak.

Last Friday morning, April 13, I started driving west through Gautier, Mississippi with the planned itinerary of hitting Ocean Springs, then Biloxi, and on into Louisiana and New Orleans as I continued to survey the state of reconstruction along the Gulf Coast after the horrific 2005 hurricane season. After reaching the city limits of Ocean Springs, I found myself slowly meandering south, stopping to take shots along Beachview Drive as I headed toward the nearby Gulf of Mexico, then wandering southwest along Lake Mars Avenue and Seacliff Boulevard, roughly paralleling the coastline as I went. Looking at my watch, it became obvious to me that, if I was going to do justice to New Orleans, which I definitely had to reach this same day, I would not have time to explore Biloxi too, so Biloxi, scene of the hurled-like-toothpicks floating casinos, is on the list for my next trip.

Driving down Beachview Drive in Ocean Springs

Driving past a boat pier with its Katrina-damaged fuel pumps

It also became apparent to me, as I drove, that in a lot of these towns and cities along the Gulf Coast, the casual observer or tourist is actually not going to see a lot of the hurricane damage simply because it is hidden from view. The layout of Ocean Springs itself interweaves between the coastline and the bayous, with much of the lingering damage obscured by treelines, swamps and winding roads. So you have to take the time to look, which I did in my own small way in. If I had spent the whole day exploring Ocean Springs and interviewing people, who knows what else I would have come across.

Once off the beaten path, you begin to see the hidden damage.

You can barely see the remaining foundation slab where a house used to sit amongst the vegetation growth and the trees.

Stairs leading to nowhere.

And you see a lot of this.

Lots of families in the Bayou are living in FEMA trailers parked next to their destroyed homes, as they try to rebuild, those lucky enough, that is, to find the resources to rebuild. Others have simply had to abandon everything and move on.

So I cordially invite you to take a look at my second photo album in this series under "Mac's Slide Show". Just click here and then just click on Mac's Slide Show. It is not a lengthy one. And you don't have to sign in unless you want to. With my next photo-essay, I will move on to New Orleans itself, starting on Orleans Avenue itself, not too far from the French Quarter. This is where everything gets much heavier.

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