Nina, my girlfriend, lives in Ocean Springs, Mississippi and has done so for several years. When you decide to live in the Gulf Coast of the USA you know the risk of hurricanes is high, but nothing could prepare anyone for the sheer destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina on Monday August 29th 2005.
Nina knew the hurricane was coming, evryone in the Gulf Coast did, it had rampaged across densely populated southeast Florida on Friday 26th killing up to seven people. Katrina was briefly downgraded to a tropical storm but turned back into a hurricane with 100-mph winds as it moved over warm Gulf waters.
With a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans (some 60 miles from Ocean Springs) issued Nina decided to evacuate to her parents in Jackson, MS, there was no mandatory evacuation for her City or any other City on the Gulf Coast so many people stayed behind and done what they always do when it is hurricane season, board up their windows, get some sand bags and stock up on essential supplies. Evacuating would prove to be a very wise decision.
I spoke to Nina on Sunday night as she was stuck in traffic trying to exit Ocean Springs for Jackson. This would be the last I would hear from her for 2 days.
Monday 26th August 2005 – As the world focused on a vision of apocalypse in New Orleans and the US government abandoned New Orleans for 6 days, it seemed that anything outside New Orleans was overlooked, we had some reports from Biloxi and Gulfport but here was very little talk of relief aid for an area the size of Great Britain. I was very worried.
Call it biblical. Call it apocalyptic. Whatever you want to call it, take your pick. There were bodies floating past my front door. I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Robert Lewis, who was rescued as floodwaters invaded his home.
I desperately tried to phone Nina on her cell phone but all I got was ‘Because of the hurricane we cannot complete your call as dialled, please try later’ – this I must have done over a hundred times on Monday. I was getting very worried and resorted to reading the online edition of The Sun Herald – a newspaper for South Mississippi, to see if there was any information on Jackson and Ocean Springs. Two days past and on Wednesday morning at 4.33am I had the call, Nina was fine but distraught and was 99% sure that her house was now ’sawdust’, she had seen a few scarce TV reports on Ocean Springs saying only foundations remain where houses once stood.
Over the next few days news got through that her home had in fact survived the hurricane, it still stood although 3 of her friends houses were complete obliterated. Today (Sunday 4th Sept) Nina is making the trip back home unsure of what will greet her. I will keep you informed.
There is plenty to be said (with hindsight) about what could have been done to prepare for a category 5 hurricane on the Gulf Coast and the woefully slow repsonse to this national disater but now is not the time.
Update: Monday 5th September 2005
I spoke to Nina today and miracuously her home was untouched by Katrina, I mean not even any structural
damage, no breakages, swimming pool intact, while a few houses away there were total destruction. Amazing really. I am just glad she is safe!