Remembering Katrina

Published 9:03 am Wednesday, September 5, 2007

By By Lowell McGill
This past week marked the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
I am once again departing from my "nostalgic" column to give you an insight into this awesome storm.
This week I just want to use very little narrative in my column to save space for a few of the photos of flood losses I worked in New Orleans and on the Mississippi coast. It is worth your drive to witness the still-remaining aftermath of the flood. You will probably never see anything like it again.
You can make the drive from Atmore to New Orleans east in three hours and 15 minutes. At that point you will begin to see the destruction that still remains in some areas of the cities and communities in St Bernard Parish (County).
As you enter New Orleans you will exit I-10 at the Chalmette-Little Woods exchange. This is about one half mile past the old New Orleans Jazz FunLand grounds. Go back under the interstate and drive for 3-4 miles into the Chalmette and Aribi area. There you will see thousands of homes, businesses, civic centers, hospitals, etc., uninhabited and some being bulldozed to ground level. Few residents and merchants have built back but most have not. You will run into Judge Perez Drive. Traveling for miles in either direction on this street will allow you to enter areas and neighborhoods in what some have called "a third world country."
If you turn right on Judge Perez you can drive right into the heart of New Orleans, through the French Quarters and run into old highway US 90(Claiborne Avenue). You will see results of the storm in the Tulane University area, where buildings were under water 3-8 feet high for weeks. Then, of course you can go in most any direction to see more damage elsewhere.
About four weeks ago I had to go back over there to look at another loss, and found some streets still had no traffic lights. I will say that much progress has been made in recent months, however, as some residents have begun to return. But, still, thousands have not come back and recent published polls indicate that many have relocated to other sections of the country.
A point I want to make here is that days after the storm there was pure bedlam. We had no place to stay and no place to eat. I actually commuted three days a week for three months getting in as much "legwork" as possible and spending the other days of the week in my office on my computer adjusting the claims. Office work and phone conversations with the insured continued for an entire year thereafter.
There was only one entrance into the city, which was up I-12 for ten miles toward Baton Rouge. The Slidel Interstate had been washed away erasing access from that city into New Orleans. Large trucks loaded with building supplies and trucks pulling FEMA trailers caused bumper-to-bumper traffic. This became very nerve-racking over a period of time.
FEMA allowed us to "one sheet" losses that were completely totaled out. These totals were mostly structures that had been under water 6-8 feet high for weeks and beyond repair. However, those "non-totals" did require much detailed paper work.
Not only did I see the New Orleans destruction, but also the damages in Bay St Louis and Waveland. These areas were probably in the very eye of the storm. Waves of water 6 feet high came inland and brought unbelievable total destruction.
Supplemental claims continue to drift in and I suppose they will continue to "show their ugly heads" for months to come. I don't know if we will ever see New Orleans or the Mississippi coast as we once knew it. And some fear storms to come, especially in New Orleans, wondering if the new levies will protect them.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at

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