Gulf Coast: Recalling Joy and Sorrow

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

A year ago today, Hurricane Katrina was downgraded to a tropical depression, then was absorbed by a frontal boundary in Canada.

Its legacy has yet to be absorbed by those who lived through the storm, whether they were transfixed by the images on their televisions, fretted about family members living on the Gulf Coast or struggled to escape their ruined homes, wondering where they would live or when they might find jobs.

Many communities, such as Waveland on the Mississippi coast, had been hammered, some sections virtually swept away; Gulfport, a short way down the coast, had been slammed with a 27-foot storm surge; and Mobile, over in Alabama, suffered its worst flooding in 90 years.

On Aug. 31, 2005, a widespread federal public health emergency was declared for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

New Orleans, its levees breached, was 80 percent underwater. Its houses were shattered, tens of thousands were trapped and most of its population was scattered. Looting had become so rampant that police were ordered to cease rescue operations to regain control of the city. Buildings throughout the area were wrecked and flooded, and oil and gas operations in the gulf had been shut down.

President Bush flew over the area that day for his first look at the devastation from the costliest storm in American history, one that killed more than 1,500 and scattered hundreds of thousands.

Beginning that day, many residents evacuated. Many have not returned. For them, the migration and misery had just begun.

This report continues -- and concludes -- reminiscences, recollections and thoughts from readers in our area. They know the Gulf Coast because they fled it, lived there or spent some time there, or went into the storm's aftermath to try to help in its recovery.

-- Bob Samsot


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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