An oak tree may be all that is left of the home where Sen. Trent Lott raised his family and joined other political leaders for a rocking-chair view of the sea.
Lott, a Mississippi Republican, learned from neighbors and relatives that the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina, rising as high as 30 feet, leveled his Pascagoula home along the Gulf Coast near the Alabama border.
Lott's press secretary, Susan Irby, said Lott and his wife were driving to Pascagoula yesterday to search for personal effects that may have survived the storm. "He's among the many who have losses, and it has been a very emotional thing," she said.
Among those was Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor, whose district includes Pascagoula, Biloxi, Gulfport and other devastated areas of southern Mississippi. Taylor's home in Bay St. Louis, to the west of Gulfport, was destroyed.
Taylor's press secretary, Courtney Littig, said Taylor and his son reached the site by flat-bottom boat Tuesday to confirm that his home had been leveled.
Other lawmakers were still unsure how their homes had fared. Rep. William L. Jefferson (D-La.), who represents an area on the eastern side of New Orleans, left with his family before Katrina hit and has not been able to get back.
Spokeswoman Melanie Roussell said that Jefferson lives on a natural levee that did not have flooding problems before, but that it was "most likely" it had suffered damage this time.
Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) sought refuge with his family in Baton Rouge and has not been able to check on the condition of his house in a New Orleans suburb, his office said.
Democrat Charlie Melancon represents southeastern Louisiana. He has a district office in an area that has been inundated by 10 to 18 feet of water.
Melancon, in a telephone interview from Louisiana, said he had heard there were still about 100 people stranded in a building in St. Bernard Parish, which he said is covered in "water from one end to the other."
Irby said Lott's home in Pascagoula was 154 years old and had not sustained water damage when Hurricane Camille hit in 1969.
She noted that Lott's office in the Capitol is decorated with photos of the former Senate majority leader and other political leaders enjoying the view from rocking chairs on the front porch.
Lott has a second house in Jackson, Miss. Taylor and his family are temporarily staying with his brother in Kiln, Miss.