Mississippi Gulf Coast, August 2005
We were no strangers to tropical storms and hurricanes. It wasn’t every year we would see one, but nearly every year one would threaten to visit. In the early days of a tropical low pressure system, little attention is paid to their broad projected paths and wind speeds just above the limits of those found in school zones. The cyclone would start to form in the Gulf, Caribbean or Atlantic, and everyone would develop a low level pang of worry just in the back of their minds that this storm would head our way and destroy everything. Could this be it?
The moment Katrina intensified and began a track toward land was the moment all eyes became fixed. The fascination and fear of her destruction captivated. Will she be it?
First order of business: prepare for the end of the World!
The hurricane specialist announced we were most certainly in the path of an unusually colossal storm and that we should find ourselves a safe shelter in another state far away. Many took the advice of officials and did the sensible thing, evacuated. All main routes leading away from the coast became clogged with cars packed so full you couldn’t see the passengers. Some were headed East, some West and North. Many had a destination, family or friends, but many just planned to drive for as far and as long as it took to avoid the impending tragedy.
Some chose to ignore the exodus and wait out the hurricane. They either refused to believe or comprehend the possible damage predicted, were overconfident in their own ability to resist death no matter the circumstances, had no means of escape or were fascinated by the beauty of nature’s strength and longed to experience something so powerful. This was the general make up of those who stayed behind.
Then Katrina came.
She was more than all had expected. In all dimensions and directions. Though it was the height of summer, the trees all died as if it were winter. Some roads, bridges, and buildings vanished down the street, into the sea and into the forests. People vanished in these same ways. Boats rested on houses while cars were in the bay.
We found out what the world would be like without power and fresh water and for a short while, what it would be like without hope. But slowly, over many years, new bridges replaced the temporary steel ones, businesses reopened and the residents built new homes. We wouldn’t forget what it was like to have everything stripped away. Katrina was it.
by Gregory Howard
If you would like to find out more about Hurricane Katrina, here are a few books we have available in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library collection.