Thursday, September 29, 2005

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.

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