Day eight after this war began -- as one top emergency response official calls the attack by Hurricane Katrina -- the state is not winning the battle, but at least it has pushed forward.

"We had a war with the weather and the weather won, so now we need to recuperate," Joe Spraggins, director of the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency, said Sunday night.

On Tuesday, he declared Mississippi "miles ahead" from where he and other officials thought it would be the night of Aug. 29, as Katrina blew northward out of the Gulf Coast. "Everybody in America came forward to help us," he said.

Initially concerned that relief efforts and media attention were focused on New Orleans, their hard-hit neighbor to the west, Gulf Coast officials and residents say they are beginning to feel the effect of disaster aid, from private citizens who drove a load of hot dogs, hamburgers, soft drinks and a barbecue grill from Florida to feed hurricane victims in a Kmart parking lot in Waveland to the thousands of National Guard troops from 18 other states deployed to assist.

President Bush received applause from state and local officials at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville on Monday when he told them, "Mississippi is on my mind."

High-profile visitors from the president to country-western singer Faith Hill have been in the state recently. Seven fully equipped mobile hospitals operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been established. Millions of meals have been distributed by the military, as well as the Salvation Army and Red Cross. Police officers and firefighters from across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic are on duty in Mississippi, and donations of water and ice are reaching the stricken Gulf Coast counties.

Disaster management teams from counties all over Florida are helping local officials organize relief and recovery efforts. By week's end, FEMA is expected to have erected three disaster relief centers where homeowners can register for federal hurricane benefits.

"We may not be playing first fiddle yet, but we're right there close to them," said Greg Doyle, the emergency medical service transport coordinator for Harrison County.

The biggest complaint among residents has been how difficult it is to reach FEMA through its toll-free telephone line to register for hurricane benefits -- the lines are so overtaxed residents report getting through only in the pre-dawn hours -- and the lack early this week of the disaster relief centers.

"As far as FEMA is concerned, they don't even know Hancock County exists," said John Watzke of Lakeshore. "And the news in Florida where we went to ride out the storm, it was all New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans. We thought here in Hancock County we were the sunken city of Atlantis. We didn't know if anything existed here."

Watzke, 49, and his family returned from Florida two days after the storm struck to find most of their community flattened but, luckily, their house fairly intact. Since late last week, Watzke and eight members of his family have set up their own tent city in the parking lot of the demolished Clermont Harbor-Lakeshore post office, which is across the street from their home. Their regular visitors are a small herd of rust-colored cattle; the National Guard, which is working on cleaning up debris and working security; and the Red Cross.

Farther west along the Gulf Coast in Ansley, where 24 members of the Evans family weathered Katrina in the attic of one of their homes, private donations have kept them going in the aftermath of the hurricane. The family is headed by William and Lois Evans, whose seven children live adjacent to their 40 acres just north of the beach or a few miles away.

On Tuesday, the wife of one of the Evans children's co-workers had brought two pickup loads of clothes, soft drinks and food to sustain the family, which is now living in its own tent city in front of the parents' home. "Out of nine homes, we only have two left," said Lois Evans, 69. "All of my children and their families, except two, are now homeless."

They have been the recipient of the kindness of a stranger in Dothan, Ala., who heard of the Evans's plight from a friend of the family and sent $40 with a courier, and the largesse of a small church in Alabama, which has sent word that it wants to adopt the family through its recovery.

Gregory Thomas, 5, eats a plate of canned spaghetti as family members sit in the background. Gregory and his family of 27 stayed in their house in Ansley, Miss., during the hurricane. John Watzke holds his financee, Tammy Dobson, in their camp at a post office parking lot.

Residents pick up food and water at a distribution site in D'Iberville, Miss.