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Reminders of Katrina Linger on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast

One year after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, the city's infrastructure remains in disarray and businesses are still suffering in parts of the state. The NewsHour provides a report from three recovering cities.

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  • SPENCER MICHELS, NewsHour Correspondent:

    Looking at the coast today — peaceful, calm and inviting — it's hard to imagine that a year ago, spurred on by 130-mile-an-hour winds, the water rose up with unrelenting force and practically wrecked the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast.

    Just across the highway, reminders of Katrina area easy to find: 65,000 homes along the Gulf Coast were completely destroyed.

    We wanted to see what had changed, what's improved, what hasn't, and we wanted to see what people were thinking. So we drove along coastal Highway 90, along the Gulf of Mexico. Right after Katrina, you couldn't drive from New Orleans to Bay St. Louis, to Pass Christian, to Biloxi. This road was just too much of a mess.

    The road is passable, and most of the debris has been cleaned up, leaving large areas where weeds have grown up, covering over sites of disappeared homes and stores and offices.

  • MAYOR TOMMY LONGO, Waveland, Mississippi:

    This was a steakhouse right here. We had two bed and breakfasts right here.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    Tommy Longo, mayor of the little coastal town of Waveland — 58 miles east of New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina scored a direct hit — can't get used to the changed face of the place he grew up in and lived in all his life. The town government is now being run out of trailers. And other than Wal-Mart and this little market, there is no major grocery store nearby.

  • MAYOR TOMMY LONGO:

    All of these streets were lined with houses. I mean, these are all…

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    Waveland, with low housing prices, was the fastest-growing town on the Gulf Coast, and its mostly blue-collar population had jumped to 10,000 before the storm. Now, just 2,500 people remain, and all 41 businesses are gone.

  • MAYOR TOMMY LONGO:

    We still have 300 demolitions to do. And, you know, when you have 95 percent substantial destruction of every structure in the city, and 60 percent of them was like this, reduced to nothing but a slab, then you just have a lot more work to do.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    On the street across from where city hall used to be, Brian Mollere, whose mother drowned in the storm, is living in a FEMA-supplied trailer trying to plan for a future that seems far off.

  • BRIAN MOLLERE, Waveland Resident:

    Psychologically you go through different stages, you know? If you were to talk to me right after the storm, I probably would have told you, "I never want to build back," or whatever. You know, it's just natural progression. This is a beautiful little area. It's home.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    You're not depressed anymore?

  • BRIAN MOLLERE:

    Well, you have highs and lows, you know, days, but I want to get back.

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