The summer of 2015 marks one decade since Hurricane Katrina made landfall on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.
Hundreds of people died, billions of dollars were spent in cleanup, but now quite a few people on the coast agree the area’s coming back stronger than before.
Jacob Kittilstad talks to just a handful of those people ten years after Hurricane Katrina.
When the 30+ foot tall wave hit the shores of Biloxi not much on the water made it.
84-year-old Captain Ron Reiger, who we met on a 70 foot schooner, says he remembers losing his home to flooding. He now lives in Gautier.
“We had been through a few other hurricanes and we just stayed in the house,” Capt. Reiger said.
“If somebody else has an automobile accident. You know about it. You see what it did. But it doesn’t really touch you,” Reiger said.
“The hurricane did,” Reiger said.
The schooner, which is run through The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum, is parked right across from the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art.
That building was also damaged during the storm.
“The Grand Casino’s barge was pushed up by the storm surge. We actually had 36 live oak trees before the storm. And 18 of those were knocked out. So we lost half of our trees,” Nathen Lytle, welcome manager at the museum, said.
During our visit, Lytle took us on a tour through the museum which is currently running an event called Katrina +10. It celebrates the hard work of recovery crews including Mississippi Power.
“They had 1,200 workers working with Mississippi Power to organize 12,000 national volunteers to bring power back within 12 days,” Lytle said.
In addition, tens of thousands of people became de facto volunteers immediately after landfall. Even Lytle who was working at the Gulfport Best Western at the time.
“The marine life aquarium actually had their dolphins in their pool there because it was three miles from the coast and they thought that they would be safe there,” Lytle said.
“And they were. I was working as pool boy there and it was actually my job to make sure nobody messed with the dolphins,” Lytle said.
“If you had asked anybody five months before [Hurricane Katrina] happened if they would do something like that, never would have happened,” Capt. Reiger said.
Reiger attributes the work of volunteers and collaboration on large infrastructure projects as reasons this area is rebounding.
“People ask me ‘What are you going to do?’ And I say ‘You want to live near the water? You got to rebuild’,” Reiger said.
“Very shortly we were back doing the things we were before,” Reiger said.