Friday, September 30, 2005

Geographic dictionary to the Mississippi Gulf Coast

A glossary of helpful terms -- and pronunciations -- for the next News-Sentinel staffer coming to The Sun Herald:

Bay St. Louis town, S Miss., pop. 8,000, across bay of same name from Pass Christian. Heavily damaged by Katrina

Beauvoir /bo-VWAH/ French, "beautiful view." The retirement estate of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina. See

Biloxi /beh-LUK-see/ named after the Biloxis, an Indian tribe. City, S Miss., pop. 50,000, east of Gulfport. Note the pronunciation; there is no "ox" sound in "Biloxi." Official website:

D'Iberville /DIE-burr-vill/ named after French settler Pierre LeMoyne Sieur d'Iberville. City, S Miss., pop. 8,000, due north of Biloxi. Official website: Read its history.

DuBuys Road /di-BEEZ/ named for early settler Peter DuBuys. Street address of The Sun Herald.

Gautier /go-SHAY/ or /GO-shay/ city, S Miss., pop. 30,000, about 10 miles east of Biloxi, past Ocean Springs

Gulfport city, S Miss., pop. 70,000, second largest city in Miss. after the capital city of Jackson. Official website:

Honey /HUNN-eh/ term of affection; what waitresses are likely to call you

Kangaroo A popular chain of gas/convenience stores. Official website:

Keesler Air Force Base /KEE-sler/ located in the middle of Biloxi; home of the 81st Training Wing. Official website:

Kiln /kill/, freq. called The Kiln /THE kill/ small unincorporated area NW of Gulfport

Long Beach city, S Miss., pop. 17,000, just west of Gulfport. Official website:

Ocean Springs town, S Miss., pop. 17,000, east of Biloxi across Biloxi Bay.

Pass Christian /PASS kris-tchi-ANN/ town, S Miss., pop. 6,500, just west of Long Beach. Heavily damaged by Katrina

Pass Road The "old" main road from Gulfport through most of Biloxi. Orig. called Pass Christian Road

Saucier /so-SHURE/ or /SO-shure/ town, S Miss., pop. 1,300, about 15 miles N of Gulfport

Sun Herald newspaper for Gulfport-Biloxi area, circ. 50,000. Official website:

Sweetheart /SWEET-art/ term of affection; what hotel housekeepers are likely to call you

Tegarden Road note spelling

Waffle House Ubiquitous 24-hour diner featuring breakfast foods at every interstate offramp. Official website:

Waveland town, S Miss., just west of Bay St. Louis. Heavily damaged by Katrina

See a map of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The casinos

There is one industry that people here are saying must be rebuilt, and must be rebuilt on land instead of on the water:

The casinos.

And there is one industry that the state legislature may or may not allow to build on land, because of pressure from conservative Christians:

The casinos.

The Sun Herald
stakes its claim on the side of the casinos today with a huge, front-page editorial: "Mississippi must decide its future."

The members of the Mississippi Legislature have a choice to make. They can either enable tens of thousands of their fellow Mississippians to rebuild their lives and livelihoods, or they can turn the worst natural disaster in the history of this nation into potentially the worst economic disaster in the history of this state.

Read the accompanying front-page story: "House panel OKs onshore casinos."

The need continues

I'll be leaving Southern Mississippi tomorrow, and unlike so many people here, I'm going home to an actual house.

The stores are open, the curfew is lifted, the restaurants are bustling, and in this one sense, things are getting back to normal.

But so many people are still without places to live, and still unsure what they will do next.

Among those helping is the American Red Cross. It has set up one of the largest kitchens in the South: It's outside, in a parking lot.

This truck delivers 600 to 700 lunches a day. And it is one of 15 trucks. I'll do the math ... umm ... that's more than 10,000 lunches every day.

The need is enormous, and of course The Red Cross is asking for donations and volunteers.

This truck is delivering lunches to volunteers around the area, including those at First Presbyterian Church of Biloxi. And speaking of First Pres:

Darlene, a missionary to Ecuador who is in the States on furlough, has been volunteering at First Pres.

Here, she points out the items on the huge chart the church is using to keep track of the stuff coming in and out and to keep track of the volunteers.

It seems that every time a certain supply runs low, a truck pulls up with those very supplies. Supplies were getting low on Thursday, when this picture was taken. One reason was that Tuesday was an extremely busy day. In eight hours, the church distributed supplies for 686 people.

With grocery stores open, the actual food distribution will not continue for much longer. But there is plenty of other work that needs to be done: Roofing, clean-up, construction, office work, counseling. The church staff has been working very hard, and can use a break, too.

The folks at Mission to North America, the PCA organization that is running the relief operation, say the work on the Gulf Coast will continue as long as three things remain:

  • The church continues to sponsor it
  • The volunteers keep coming
  • The work is here to do
Since there is no chance the work will evaporate anytime soon, and the church is likely to continue housing visiting helpers, the rest is up to volunteers.

Can you help? Can you send money? Can you take the time to come and work? Anyone with the willingness to help can be of help.

You can go to the PCA Relief web page to offer your assistance.

The dark is darker now

Cartoonist Jimmy Johnson, resident of Mississippi Coast town Pass Christian, speaks eloquently about walking around his town after nightfall.

Read his words here. Plus, read his archived "Arlo and Janis" comics.

P.S. Pass Christian is pronounced /PASS kris-tchi-ANN/.

The question

"How'd ya do?"

Two acquaintances meet each other for the first time at Winn-Dixie. After the standard, "Hi!" and "How ya doing?" the next question has become standard etiquette.

"How'd ya do?"

It's the universal ice breaker. We all went through Katrina, it says. We all suffered in some way, even if it was just seeing what happened to other parts of your own town.

All that is a given. Now, I should ask about you personally. And Southern manners has come up with the phrase for all of us to use:

"How'd ya do?"

A group of us from The Sun Herald went to a Chinese buffet on Wednesday. Behind us walked in a woman who evidently was some kind of regular customer before the storm.

Within five seconds, the proprietress had asked the customer, "How'd ya do?"

The customer had lost her home. And the proprietress was able to inform her about her efforts to reopen her business.

This morning, an older gentleman in line with me at P.J.'s Coffee in Gulfport turned around and, after a couple of pleasantries, asked, "How'd ya do?"

I told him I wasn't here, nor did I even live here.

"Well," he drawled, "that's good for you."

"How'd you do?" I asked.

"My house is somewhere in the sound," he said.

The man was retired and in some way well-off. He had a good amount of money in stocks. But of course, that might be everything he has to live on for the rest of his life.

And now, his house is in the sound. And he's been trying to get a FEMA trailer delivered to his plot of land, close enough to the beach "you can hit a golf ball into the water from my front yard." But, he'll survive, he says.

Everyone wants to talk about what he has had to go through. But no one wants to be so impolite as to just start blabbing about his own difficulties.

So, when you visit, and you start meeting a few residents, remember that they all have a Katrina story. But they won't tell you what it is unless you ask:

"How'd ya do?"

Time to pack my bags

First thing tomorrow morning, I step into my rental car -- a Subaru Outback, a nice ride -- and drive to Jackson, Miss., for my flight home.

I also have some things to pack onto this blog before I go. I hope to offer an update of the ministry of First Presbyterian of Biloxi, and a handy glossary for future visitors to Biloxi-Gulfport and The Sun Herald.

Who needs FEMA when you have NASA?

In case you don't know, ScrappleFace is a satirical news site.

And here's some "news" I missed from last week:

NASA Promotes Hurricane-Free Moon Villages

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Fort Wayne in the news

So, I tottled over to The Sun Herald home page, clicked on the More Photos link, and scrolled through to find ... Fort Wayne!

Photo by The Associated Press

Caption: Dave Anderson, left, and Kent Rybolt of Ft. Wayne, Ind., sell Hurricane Katrina T-shirts along a highway in Gulfport. Reaction has been mixed.

And I'm told some residents are actually wearing them.

Read the story, "Free enterprise at work: Katrina T-shirts amid the rubble."

You know what's funny?, which hosts this weblog, has a spell check.

The word "blog" is not in its dictionary.

The waiting

Over supper, I met Batch and Holly -- Batch is the guy responsible for the Latin-rific Simul Justus et Peccator blog.

It was never intended to become Katrina Central for the PCA, but there it is.

(And I took my camera with me and never took a picture of them. My brain sometimes.)

Batch and Holly lost their house to Katrina. That of course was very difficult and draining.

But now they're in a new difficult and draining portion of the disaster: Trying to figure out what to do next.

Do you stay? Do you rebuild? Can you afford to rebuild? Do you really want to live in the same spot? Can you find a job? Can you afford to stay and find a job? Should you move to find a job?

And all the while, you're calling and meeting with representatives of layer upon layer of government and insurance bureaucracy.

This is a time when prayer is most needed for patience through this particular trial.

Read more on his blog.

Sign off

I understand that this sign on Pass Road just west of Keesler Air Force Base was one of only two original McDonald's signs in the country.

Biloxi has a mall, after all

When I drove by the small sign on Pass Road that proclaimed, "Sears is now open!" I wondered, where's Sears? Where is there even a mall?

I had driven over a lot of the main roads of Biloxi and Gulfport except for one: U.S. 90, also called Beach Boulevard, which has been closed to the general public since Katrina.

And that is where you can find Edgewater Mall.

It's a big one, too, a bit smaller than Fort Wayne's Glenbrook Square. (Glenbrook has 175 stores, Edgewater has "more than a hundred.")

But the mall is right beside the beach and has been closed since the storm. And Sears, despite having doors that face the ocean, is the first store there to reopen.

Security guards directed shoppers around the mall through several construction crews trying to restore the rest of the mall. But what caught my eye was this:

I wondered if this O'Charley's had been in the middle of demolition when Katrina struck. Here's a closer look:

There isn't enough rubble for this to have been a working restaurant, right?

But it was. A resident drove up to take a look around and I asked him about the place. He said this was one of the most popular places to eat on the beach.

"You'd have to wait in line to get in," he said.

Of course, nowadays you have to wait in line to eat anywhere.

Evidently, anything that could float, including tables and chairs, was washed out to sea.

Think of it. The floor of the restaurant couldn't have been more than ten feet above sea level. The storm surge was 30 feet. The math is frightening.

Over my shoulder was this:

And past the auto center were two other buildings that I found out were BellSouth offices:

Notice how the second story of this building looks practically intact, while the first floor is completely washed out.

Unlike this one.

But then I startled myself with what was right in front of me: This huge, glorious tree survived. There is nothing but a road and the beach between the tree and the gulf.

So now I can end with a couple of shots of the Gulf of Mexico itself.

It's always there, calm enough to be sleeping, not even a surf to talk about.

Can you imagine the size of a storm that could bring water thirty feet above sea level? A storm surge of thirty feet. The mind boggles.

Thanks a yacht

This is the latest post in a series on Ocean Springs, Miss. Scroll down for the others and click the photos for enlargements.

Local resident Jean told me to keep going down Front Beach Drive, and it will swing around into an inlet where some boats have found themselves in places boats don't belong.

His neighbor to the right also had unwelcome visitors. Note the little green boat right of center; it seems to be resting on top of several posts.

And then, lo and behold:

Sun Herald photo by David Purdy

Here's another photo from The Sun Herald's package of aerial shots. This is an aerial view of what you see in my photos above. Note again how little cleanup has happened in a month.

And then I go up a hill, turn to the left, go up another short hill, and on the corner we have some boats, pushed up quite a little hill to rest on this residential street.

Thus concludes our tour of Ocean Springs. Be sure to check out all the posts below.

The Destruction Variety-Pak

This is the latest post in a series on Ocean Springs, Miss. Scroll down for the others and click the photos for enlargements.

Katrina has a crazy variety of ways to destroy your home: Winds, storm surge, rain. And then, like in this case, Katrina would simply dig the dirt out from under your house.

Wherever you find a line of trees or a fence, you find a scene like this, where bags and clothes were caught mid-flight.

Jean told me that right behind that tree, where you can see a layer of concrete blocks on the ground, was once an old home. The brick house in the background looked as though it may have survived Katrina's wrath ...

... until I walked 30 feet and saw the front. This home was owned by a woman who had just completed renovations so that her elderly mother could live with her. A local businessman has helpfully posted an advertisement for demolition services on a post in the foreground.

You may have to click on this photo to get a good view of the homes on the rise. These houses look like Katrina shoved these houses into themselves, the way you'd shove away a dinner plate at the table.

More steps to nowhere.

Too bad hurricanes can't read.

Two views, one pile of rubble

This is the latest post in a series on Ocean Springs, Miss. Scroll down for the others and click the photos for enlargements.

This was an apartment complex.

There would have been no way for me to know, except that in that Sun Herald aerial photo package I mentioned yesterday, there was this picture:

Sun Herald photo by David Purdy

Caption: Two apartment complexes on Beach Front Road in Ocean Springs were reduced to rubble.

The aerial photo was taken almost a month ago. No rebuilding has taken place, and who knows when it will. Too many questions remain about insurance and the future of the casinos, which employed 17,000 people.

The fishmonger

This is the latest post in a series on Ocean Springs, Miss. Scroll down for the others and click the photos for enlargements.

Somtimes during my travels around the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I would not be sure if the splinters and slabs before me were ever some sort of building. So, did Katrina do this, or was it a wreck anyway?

On this trip to Ocean Springs, though, I had a worthy tour guide in Jean.

She told me this was a fish market. The little spit of land was too small for a building, so the owner poured huge amounts of oyster shells to enlarge the area. And despite reservations from the city of Ocean Springs, he built his business right there on the beach.

Along the beach

This is the latest post in a series on Ocean Springs, Miss. Scroll down for the others and click the photos for enlargements.

I pulled off to the side of the road as well as I could. Front Beach Drive is a bit narrow, nothing like the four-lane Beach Boulevard in Biloxi. It curves between the sandy beach and the properties to the north that usually are supported by four-foot walls.

Here is where I met Jean, an older woman who lives in a condo along this road. The first floor of her condo was severely damaged by Katrina. She said she would have much prefered her second floor be destroyed, because she's an artist, and she did her paintings on the first floor.

Earlier in the week, she was able to pull one of her paintings from her condo's wreckage, untouched by the storm. She hopes to find more.

Jean was walking along Front Beach Drive, "sightseeing" before her condo association meeting, at which they were to decided whether to rebuild the damaged condos.

I didn't get a good photo of her condo, but Jean did tell me about some of the other properties on the beach.

The photo you see above is of a house built in 1918. It survived Camille in 1969, and it looks as though it will be able to be repaired after the damage wrought by Katrina.

The owners has been meticulously redecorating the house, room by room, to reflect its Victorian roots. Jean had taken a tour of the home last month.

"It was beautiful," she said. "At least it was on August 28th."

'Blvd. of Broken Dreams'

Katie, my colleague from Boise, wrote about this: "'Steps to nowhere' stand in mute memorial to Katrina's power"

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- A set of brick stairs stands sentry over heartbreaking piles of wood, furniture, toys and china that just weeks ago made up Jeffrey and Angie Giddens' gracefully aging beach cottage.

Read the story and see the photos.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Beauty and the Beast

This is the latest post in a series on Ocean Springs, Miss. Scroll down for the others.

It's time for me to get some sleep, but I'll leave you with a few photos taken on that beach in Ocean Springs.

Face one way, and you see the nature that draws people to the humid air of the gulf coast. Face the other way, and you see what destruction nature can hand to you in a single day.

Good night, and there will be more about Ocean Springs in the morning.

Out to sea

This is the latest post in a series on Ocean Springs, Miss. Scroll down for the others.

When I saw these few sticks in the sand near the bridge, I wondered if they were in fact the remains of some sort of structure.

They were.

This is what is left of the Ocean Springs Yacht Club. The sign begins:

"Welcome members and guests of the Ocean Springs Yacht Club. We are currently undergoing remodeling due to hurricane Katrina."

By the way, that line of trees you see on the horizon of the top photo? That's Deer Island in the gulf near Biloxi, one of the many barrier islands that line the coast.

The bridge that outsmarted Camille

Read "Welcome to Ocean Springs," the introduction to these posts.

Hurricane Camille is the Mississippi Gulf Coast's high-water mark: All other big storms are referenced and compared to the legendary Big One of 1969.

Remember the photos of antebellum homes smashed by Katrina? As bad as Camille was, they had survived. They did not survive Katrina.

I drove nervously past a couple of "Road Closed" signs on my way to the bridge and found I was not the only one paying a visit. Among the many people there was a recent widow -- last year, she lost her husband of 41 years. She was a long-time resident of Ocean Springs and, although she wasn't here for Camille, she knew something about the history of the bridge before us.

The new U.S. 90 bridge was built sometime in the '50s, before Camille. The bridge is composed of multiple pillars with slabs of road pretty much only resting on the pillars.

The point is to protect the pillars from hurricane damage. In 1969, Camille knocked around some of the slabs on the bridge, but barges came along and simply pushed the slabs back into place for a relatively easy fix.

But the fix won't be nearly so easy after Katrina. The Mississippi Department of Transportation is already soliciting bids for utter replacement of the bridge.

More photos of the U.S. 90 Biloxi bridge:

You can check out this awesome aerial photo and many other at this Sun Herald slide show.

You can also check out a few before-and-after satellite photos of this bridge, brought to you by Digital Globe.

If you find any other photos to link to, please leave the web page in the comments below.

And don't forget my own photo that I posted earlier.

Welcome to Ocean Springs

Image courtesy of Google Maps

Ocean Springs lies to the east of Biloxi, across what's simply called the Back Bay of Biloxi. Biloxi is on a peninsula, so a bridge connects -- or connected -- Biloxi to Ocean Springs.

I got to Ocean Springs the only way you can -- by going east on I-10, which is a few miles north of Biloxi, and coming south down Mississippi Route 609.

You can see U.S. 90 clearly on the satellite image above from Google Maps. U.S. 90 is the major road, the thickest one, that cuts across the top lefthand corner of the image.

But you can also see two other bridges just to the north of the U.S. 90 bridge. The one closest to the main U.S. 90 bridge is the old U.S. 90 bridge, which was left open for pedestrians for fishing. The top bridge is a railroad bridge.

Now, all three bridges have portions of them in the bay.

After driving up to the bridge and taking some pictures there, I drove east along the coast on what I later found out was Front Beach Drive. (Not many street signs survive.) I took photos there and followed the road around to the inlet you can see at the lower right.

Following are my photos, and the stories I found there.

The Google map of the coastline allows you to grab it and move it around, change the perspective from close-up to far off, and change from map view to satellite view.

Posts from Ocean Springs tonight

I drove over to Ocean Springs, Miss., today before work and took plenty of photos and spoke with a few residents who were out and about, looking at the damage.

I'll post some photos and stories later this evening.

This photo is of the bridge that connects Ocean Springs to Biloxi. You can see some of the hotels that the casinos built in the background.

Here is a map that shows you where Ocean Springs is in relations to Biloxi and Gulfport.

More 'Arlo and Janis'

No real new reason to point you over to the web site of Pass Christian resident Jimmy Johnson. He's the cartoonist behind my favorite strip, "Arlo and Janis."

Last week, he posted some poignant photos from Pass Christian. If you missed them, please check them out.

But today, he posted a few comics from his archive, and I thought you might find them funny.

Also, check out his work on

Newsweek columnist on Biloxi

Photo from Newsweek

Slowly, like people climbing out of the rubble itself, voices are being heard, lamenting what was lost in Biloxi and the entire Mississippi Coast. The New Orleans flood was spectacular, but the hurricane struck the heart of Biloxi:

Annalyn Swan writes in Newsweek, "We will never re-create the Biloxi I loved as a child, but we must try to build something just as unique.":

The heart of New Orleans -- what makes New Orleans New Orleans -- survived Katrina. Biloxi's history has shattered. There's simply no going back. The Dantzler House, the Brielmaier House, the Tullis-Toledano Manor: the list of vanished treasures goes on. The entire Point Cadet area on the city's east end, the historic center of Biloxi's famous fishing industry, has disappeared.

She is not excited about some plans for redevelopment:
The mayor of neighboring Gulfport, for one, has another vision: a vision of the coast as a string of casinos and high-rise condominiums. "God has come in and wiped the slate clean for us," he said. "We have an opportunity now to make it an absolutely unique place."

Nothing but condos and slots: that doesn't sound unique to me. If the coast truly wants to be unique, why not keep much of the low-lying area along the beach an open green space? Why not erect some visionary new public buildings, echoes of the pavilions that once drew crowds to the seashore? Ironically, the city was just completing a Frank Gehry-designed art museum when Katrina struck. Perhaps Biloxi could become a smaller Bilbao -- a monument to the future, if not the past.

Read her whole story: Out of the Rubble... Condos and Slots?

'Good Morning America' in Pass Christian

Those of us here on the Mississippi Gulf coast sometimes feel forgotten in the shadow of what happened in New Orleans.

So, not only have First Lady Laura Bush and the folks of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" visited Biloxi, now Robin Roberts and "Good Morning America" are pledging their help to the small town of Pass Christian, Miss.

When Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast, it hit very close to home for "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts. Roberts grew up on the Gulf Coast in Pass Christian, Miss., a town of 6,000 that lies about 13 miles west of Gulfport. ...

As cities and towns along the Gulf Coast begin the rebuilding process, "Good Morning America" will document the recovery effort in Pass Christian, 80 percent of which was destroyed in the storm. "GMA" will also partner with the Salvation Army and the Corporation for National and Community Service to "adopt" Pass Christian.

This is very good news and a great way for the media to keep attention on "under-served" areas.

Read the whole story and the rest of "GMA's" coverage.

Photo from the website


Ten points to Caleb Cook for correctly identifying the source of the muck sweat quote: "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis.

"But how are we going to get out?" for Aslan had got in by a jump and the gates were still locked.

"That'll be all right," said Aslan; and then, rising on his hind-legs, he bawled up at the Giant. "Hi! You up there," he roared. "What's your name?"

"Giant Rumblebuffin, if it please your honour," said the Giant, once more touching his cap.

"Well then, Giant Rumblebuffin," said Aslan, "just let us out of this, will you?"

"Certainly, your honour. It will be a pleasure," said Giant Rumblebuffin. "Stand well away from the gates, all you little 'uns." Then he strode to the gate himself and bang - bang - bang - went his huge club. The gates creaked at the first blow, cracked at the second, and shivered at the third. Then he tackled the towers on each side of them and after a few minutes of crashing and thudding both the towers and a good bit of the wall on each side went thundering down in a mass of hopeless rubble; and when the dust cleared it was odd, standing in that dry, grim, stony yard, to see through the gap all the grass and waving trees and sparkling streams of the forest, and the blue hills beyond that and beyond them the sky.

"Blowed if I ain't all in a muck sweat," said the Giant, puffing like the largest railway engine. "Comes of being out of condition. I suppose neither of you young ladies has such a thing as a pocket-handkerchee about you?"

"Yes, I have," said Lucy, standing on tip-toes and holding her handkerchief up as far as she could reach.

"Thank you, Missie," said Giant Rumblebuffin, stooping down. Next moment Lucy got rather a fright for she found herself caught up in mid-air between the Giant's finger and thumb. But just as she was getting near his face he suddenly started and then put her gently back on the ground muttering, "Bless me! I've picked up the little girl instead. I beg your pardon, Missie, I thought you was the handkerchee!"

"No, no," said Lucy laughing, "here it is!" This time he managed to get it but it was only about the same size to him that a saccharine tablet would be to you, so that when she saw him solemnly rubbing it to and fro across his great red face, she said, "I'm afraid it's not much use to you, Mr Rumblebuffin."

"Not at all. Not at all," said the giant politely. "Never met a nicer handkerchee. So fine, so handy. So - I don't know how to describe it."

Will the casinos return?

Now this is a story with a religious angle:

Casino storm brewing: Special legislative session dealing with tough issues

Hurricane Katrina is spawning a new storm, this one political, as Mississippi lawmakers in special session ponder whether to let destroyed casinos rebuild on dry land instead of the floating barges to which they were previously restricted.

The casinos employed more than 17,000 people here on the Mississippi coast, and the economic future of Biloxi is tied tightly to them:
The industry pumps millions into state and local economies, but some still say it was legalized in 1991 only because of political sleight of hand or because many lawmakers were absent or didn't understand what they were voting on.

Some religious conservatives see this as their chance to keep the casinos from returning.

Photo from the web site of the Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino