Thursday, September, 22, 2005

Fielder’s Choice
By Barry Burleson

Storm update

Fellow Mississippi newspaper publisher and good friend Jim Abbott of the Enterprise-Tocsin in Indianola, recently saw Hurricane Katrina’s wrath firsthand on the Mississippi Coast and shared observations via e-mail.

Here’s a portion:

“In February 1971, a giant killer tornado raked across little Inverness, Mississippi, just south of Indianola, leveling much of the town and killing 13. I saw what the power of wind could do.

“I thought no storm in nature could be more destructive - until I saw what Hurricane Katrina’s wind and storm surge did to the Mississippi Coast.

“At the end of Highway 49 where it intersects with Highway 90 (the beach road), I stopped my weathered Explorer SUV momentarily and glanced at the exploded remains of the Oceanarium where Cynthia and I had taken Jim Jr. and Katie to see the dolphins and sea lions in 1977. Special memories.

“As you leave downtown Gulfport and go east, the beachfront houses have vanished, erased by Katrina’s storm surge - their crumbled remains deposited hundreds of feet back from their foundations.”

There’s more observations from Jim, like destroyed churches, restaurants and casinos.

A favorite restaurant and landmark, Mary Mahoney’s, is “certainly salvageable,” Jim reports. And the “magnificent live oak there is still standing.”

As of Monday afternoon, the fatality count in Mississippi stood at 219, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Other updated figures on Monday, via the fax machine, include:

  • Electrical power associations of Mississippi report 16,224 meters without power.

  • More than 95 percent of the water systems in Mississippi are now operable. Statewide, 585 boil water notices were initially issued, and now only 230 boil water notices are still in effect. Eighty-five percent of wastewater plants on the Gulf Coast are now operable.

  • In Mississippi, there are 103 American Red Cross shelters open with 5,785 evacuees.

  • The Forestry Commission is advising the public not to burn debris because of the increased risk of wildfires.

  • More than 332,202 Mississippi disaster victims have registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and more than $264,409,794 in payments have been approved. As of 3 p.m. Sunday, 25,421 disaster victims had been to the seven open Disaster Recovery Centers in Biloxi, Gulfport, Moss Point, Ocean Springs, Pascagoula, Poplarville and Waveland.

  • As of Friday, 1,549 travel trailers and mobile homes had been staged with families occupying 519 of them.

  • School districts in Jefferson Davis County, Pearl River County, Perry County, Poplarville and Stone County reopened Monday.

  • Other school opening dates include: Forrest County AHS, September 23; Lamar County, Lumberton, Moss Point and Ocean Springs, Sept. 26; Hancock County, Sept. 30; and Biloxi, Jackson County, Long Beach and Pass Christian, October 3.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation also faxed out an interesting news release on Monday.

Officials at MDOT announced that beginning Wednesday (Sept. 21), between the hours of 7 a.m. and 12 noon, crews will begin the demolition of the Grand Casino barge. Hurricane Katrina moved the casino onto Hwy. 90 near 30th Avenue in Gulfport.

The area surrounding the barge will be closed to all personnel until further notice. A security perimeter will be set up by local authorities and strictly enforced. A detour will be provided but motorists are asked to please exercise extreme caution and patience when traveling in this area.

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