The Great Outdoors

27 08 2010

This is the second part to a series about Hurricane Katrina.
Please read the previous blog “X marks the spot” to read the first part of this series.

USA TODAY ranked the story of Hurricane Katrina 4th place in their “25 Headlines that shaped History”

Other nations couldn’t help but acknowledge the devastation.   Some headlines from September, 2005:
China Morning Post: “Dollar Dives Amid Katrina Chaos” — The U.S. dollar dropped to a three-month low point against the euro on Friday, faltering as the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina threatened to cripple growth in the world’s largest economy.
TF1 TV(France): It’s unusual for the United States, the number one economic and military superpower in the world, to ask for international help for a domestic catastrophe. The last time this occurred was after the September 11 attacks.
Die Welt(Germany): America looks aghast at a third world situation on its own soil, splintered and full of violence.
The Australian: “Forgotten Biloxi Belts Out the Blues” –The slow drive towards Biloxi is like glimpsing the post-oil future, a scene out of the post-apocalyptic movie Mad Max.

12 hours had passed almost to the minute before Katrina finally allowed us to step outside our safe haven.  It was 5:00 in the afternoon and the sun broke through the clouds and shone down on what appeared to be the aftermath of nuclear war.  We were stunned and speechless…and thankful when we looked back on the house we were in.  Large trees were scattered like match sticks all around the house, having barely missed it.  Most of the roof was intact and damage was minor.  We looked out to the street and among the scattered debris people began to emerge.  Everyone appeared to be in a zombie like state.  We focused on a couple who’s clothes were tattered and torn and they were bloodied and bruised.  We offered them help and listened to their story of how they’d swam for their lives from a home that was washed away in the surge of water just a few blocks away.  They swam for about 8 hours as they recalled.  I get goose bumps remembering this conversation.  – Suz 8/26/10

From “Quarrelling through Katrina” on
Hurricane enthusiast George “Sonny” Hoffman found himself in the company of an unlikely group of strangers when he went to Waveland, Miss., to meet Hurricane Katrina. Sonny believed the group was in a world of trouble and appointed himself commander. As he tells it, he began formulating plans and back-up plans. Sonny was alone in his belief that the Texan Motel, a mile and a half from the waterfront, would flood. He predicted the storm surge would reach 20 feet on Highway 90 and 7 feet at the hotel.
“Everyone had the sense of relief that when the sun came up that you know — it was over, you’d made it through the night,” says Colleen, even though the wind was still blowing. It was only then that Katrina brought the deluge.
As Sonny remembers it: “It was Robert who brought it to my attention that the parking lot across the street was filling up with water. It had become a lake, the cars were floating. Their lights were on. Then we notice that there’s a river flowing down Highway 90. It looked like the Colorado River.”
Colleen describes it this way: “I walked out to the street to see if I could see anything. And that’s when the wave (came). … It looked like somebody ought to be surfing on it. It had a white cap. … I would have expected a parade of pink elephants before I would have expected this huge wave coming down Highway 90.”

From “Hurricane Katrina: Survivor Stories” on CTVnews:
“We grabbed a lady and pulled her out the window and then we swam with the current. It was terrifying. You should have seen the cars floating around us. We had to push them away when we were trying to swim.”
Schovest lived at Quiet Water Beach apartments in Biloxi, Miss., where authorities estimate 30 people perished.-
Joy Schovest

Just a few months prior to Katrina I had found myself in a very good position in life.  I was poised to begin a new endeavor in property management.  My quaint little cottage just a couple of blocks away from the beautiful Waveland beach front had raised in value dramatically.  I’d remodeled it somewhat and transformed it from an outdated camp style home to an attractive and inviting cottage style home.  I was in a position to move forward, using that home as a propeller toward bigger and better things.  With a good paying job, money in the bank, the humble beginnings of a classic car collection and a valuable home I was able to take a loan against these items and purchase a bigger, better home (under the agreement that my cottage would be rented on a regular basis and the classic cars would be rebuilt and re-sold for profit).  I had moved most of my belongings into my beautiful new home, only about 3 miles from my cottage and was aimed for success.  I got a pretty decent deal on the new home and envisioned it turning more profit and becoming a land lord of sorts.  I had dreams.  The cottage was emptied except the garage full of antiques, collectables, and childhood memories stored in boxes I just hadn’t found the time to move to my new house yet.  The new house was still cluttered with boxes full of valuables, particularly my music memorabilia such as collectable items, autographs and photographs.  It was too much work to sort through it all, so I kept it stored in the recreation room at the new house out of the way until I could find the time.  When thinking of material things, it was a bit ironic that everything I had stored at that cottage and in boxes in the new house happened to be the most important and irreplaceable of all my personal belongings in life … and the only items that were lost in Katrina.  During the storm, in that fateful moment that I stepped down into the recreation room and noticed it flooding it didn’t even dawn on me that I should quickly start gathering my valuables and move them to higher ground.  I guess I was in too much of a state of shock.
I never dreamed I would need to cover my property for flooding.  It didn’t seem fathomable.  The cottage was 13 feet above sea level and had braved many hurricanes in it’s nearly 40 year life span.  The bank didn’t require flood insurance and the insurance company didn’t recommend it.  Of course, it was close to the beach so I wouldn’t have seen it as a safe place to stay simply because of the wind. Besides, I had a new home at least a mile north of the cottage that was deemed hurricane proof by the seller.  And, I have to say, that turned out to be pretty true thankfully.
Christian’s house was not far from the cottage.  After helping a few people we met on the street, we noted that while we still had at least 3 hours of daylight left we should venture to our other properties and survey the damage.  We hopped on our bicycles for what would normally be a 15 minute journey and rode into a 3 hour adventure were we would struggle with obstacles and find ourselves carrying those bikes over our backs while trudging through heavy debris more often than we were able to ride them.  We had no idea what we were in store for…-Suz 8/27/10
Between Biloxi and Ocean SpringsAs I explained in “X marks the spot”, this series will continue for the next few days honoring the 5 Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  Please visit again.  Thank you.



13 responses

27 08 2010
uncle jailbird

you’re doin’ a good job. waitin’ for part 3.

27 08 2010

Thanks Unc 🙂

27 08 2010
Howie Charles

Dear Susan, I cannot even comprehend how bad it was. I think It will be many more years before this gets better and people will forget about it. I remember an earthquake that took place at 4:30 in the morning. I was working on the top floor of a 13 story building. The lights went out and I did what they tell you to do. I was standing in a doorway. It occurred to me that if the building collapsed I would fall a long way. When it was over, I sent my employees home and went home myself. Well this event lasted for perhaps 3 minutes and Katrina is still going on. I appreciate this series. Keep it coming. Peace, howie

27 08 2010

Hurricanes generally last 6-8 hours. Katrina was a solid 12. It was a horrific experience just being trapped indoors and full of fear. I can not fathom what it must’ve been like for people trapped in attics or swimming for their lives. Horrifying!!! The thing about a hurricane, though, is you get somewhat of a warning. I couldn’t imagine being at the office or whatever when suddenly the earth begins to rumble and danger suddenly surrounds. I have a friend that is a nurse in So-Cal and years ago she told me that a major earthquake caused a bridge to collapse in early morning traffic and what a nightmare it was. I can’t even imagine!!!

27 08 2010

You know, even with your commentary, and the video evidence, I still can’t for the life of me even remotely understand the enormity of it all. It’s too surreal, Suz. It’s like everything you knew about life, and had built up for yourself based upon that knowledge got turned upside down. As if it never existed to begin with.

It’s truly amazing how much we take for granted. I mean, I live in a place that was affected by the Great Power Outage a few years ago – where there was no power to be had for what? Three days? A week? I forget now but I do recall how upside down everything was. And that was NOTHING compared to Katrina.

27 08 2010

Honestly, even to experience it first hand is still surreal. Pictures don’t do it justice. Stepping out right after the hurricane, the sights we saw felt more like walking on a movie set or something… when I say the people were like zombies, I’m being very sincere. Most people on the street were people that were actually outdoors in the elements fighting for their lives for hours on end. Talk about surreal. I was inside a safe home filled with fear and concern, but I can’t even begin to imagine swimming for my life for hours upon hours and watching bodies float past me or cars or houses!!! But I didn’t see any of that from my house, I just saw the aftermath.
I lost a lot of things that really meant a lot to me such as my 30 year old record collection, photos & autographs from meeting famous musicians, cassette & video tapes, photographs… many many things that can never be replaced… all of my writing I’d ever done…etc… it was bad, but a really really small sacrifice when I look at what so many other people suffered.

28 08 2010

Awaiting Part 3…..Girl, you have such a way with words….Very Visual! I saw the aftermath, not right after, but within a few weeks after returning…..You were there….and you bring us right there with you. My heart aches for you, and all of them, and the tears come on their own….Katrina was sooo much more than Betsy..which I had 5 and 1/2 ft of water in my house….I was 11 and watched it come up the street, and my papa telling me to run inside…we swam to the highway afterwards,….. and then Camelle….Which hit your area much worse than mine…..Katrina still beats Camelle hands down……I think Life has a switch, and sometimes something will flip it and Everything changes…..Nothing will ever be the same….We do have our Memories….We do have our lives….Love Ya!

28 08 2010

I agree about the switch… I think everything happens for a reason and I try not to question it, but after something like this I can’t help but wonder why??? So much suffering and so much loss. We are still so far from recovery it’s just sad. I try to keep a positive attitude, as you know… in fact I even feel guilty when I get down about Katrina because what I went through is nothing compared to so many others’ experiences. So I often just keep it in, but when I do this yearly series I can’t help but let it out. However, as the series comes to a close… and any time I speak of Katrina… I always end with gratitude. I am blessed. Many were not.

29 08 2010
Home Bittersweet Home « Waiting on karma to pay back that debt…

[…] « The Great Outdoors […]

30 08 2010

Wow Suz
As I look at the pictures that you have displayed here. It really looks even more tragic than I had originally pictured. It really is a wonder that the casualties weren’t greater. You really have me wondering now how much of this I really understand in terms of velocity for which it travel and impacted structures and the devastation resulting from.

31 08 2010

It’s so hard to put something of such magnitude into words and pictures do not do it justice. To see the devastation first hand is unforgettable. Some of the finest areas were completely flattened… all the historic antibellum homes and mansions that lined the beach… the most beautiful architecture you could ever imagine from centuries past were gone… so sad…

3 09 2010

Wow, aside from the heartache I have over this, which I will never get over…you need to be in journalism girl. This is quality reporting Suz. I used to have some friends over at the Picayune. I’d bet they would say the same thing. I was a graphic artist for them for a time.

5 09 2010

My house isn’t among these photos, but there are pics of it before & after on my myspace. I went to college for journalism actually, but I didn’t like the lack of creativity involved. I’m more of a creative author than one to follow a structure.

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