Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Gulf Coast

Nine months have passed since Katrina came ashore like the cyclone she was. I doubt anyone will ever affectionately call this storm Katya. Almost becoming part of the background as I drive to the Gulf Coast to see that giant rocking chair reduced to kindling or trees leaning far over. Or to see a tree still nestled where the front room of a house used to be. There are still plenty of temporary blue roofs to be seen.

Progress is being made. Highway 90 is now passable again. Most of the stranded casinos have been demolished except for the Treasure Bay barge. It still sits beached off Biloxi like the galleon it is made to resemble with ribs plainly showing where the planking had been stripped away by the storm's fury.

They are still squabbling over building the bridge to link Ocean Springs to Biloxi again. At this rate, no bridge will ever be built and everyone will have to do the I-10 to I-110 boogie.

Long Beach, the bedroom community just to the West of Gulfport, is faced with a problem it thought it had voted down years ago as some push again for a casino to be built in the small town. Katrina, like Camille, completely devastated many of the businesses located in the tiny town and tax revenues are way off. I know people who want the casino and others who are opposed. I have to side with those opposed but not for their reasons, they are fearful of a casino destroying the atmosphere of the town where I see a complete lack of major roads that would take people to a casino in Long Beach. They would have to pass by the casinos in Biloxi, Gulfport, and Bay St. Louis before stepping inside a casino in Long Beach.

Waveland and Bay St. Louis are talking about merging since Katrina left almost nothing of either community.

Another small town, Pass Christian, is trying to oust its mayor. For over a week after Katrina, Mayor McDonald was MIA. When asked why he was missing, it usually boils down to someone in his family being ill. McDonald has been such a non-performer last December the aldermen tried to cut his pay by 10%. He vetoed the measure and then two of the aldermen reversed their vote, which let the veto stand. Just recently when he was supposed to give a speech on how things are going, at the last minute he cancelled due to illness. So now they are trying to cut his pay by 50%. The mayor's salary is $48,000/year. Methinks the city of Pass Christian is not getting the mayor they elected or paid for and McDonald needs to go.

Sen. Trent Lott and his brother-in-law Scruggs are in the middle of a class action lawsuit against the insurance companies. Like a lot of other people, Katrina destroyed their houses; for Scruggs there is only a slab left. The fight is over the water damage, was it storm surge or was it wind induced? That is the key to liability and who pays. The first case to go to court for Scruggs is that of a police officer who lost everything and his insurance company insisting it is not liable.

As for Sen. Lott's $700 million highway plan for the railroad tracks. I think the Senator has lost it. Those tracks got washed out and it cost $500 million to repair them after Katrina. In Biloxi the initial surge buffeted the tracks from the Sound side and then when the water cam rushing up Back Bay, the tracks got hit from the north. The railroad tracks cross the whole Coast until it reaches Bay St. Louis, here it crosses to the north of the Highway 90 span to cross the Bay. Katrina got both spans, highway and railroad. It would be more sensible to expand 28th Street. This street runs into Pass Road. Pass Road is four lanes that connects the Navy SeaBee base to Keesler AFB. If 28th Street, as is, is widened to four lanes, it will give a new lateral connector for two more north bound evacuation routes to I-10. Pops Ferry in Biloxi is supposed to be an evacuation route, but it is so winding and congested it is a joke that needs to be fixed. But it probably won't because of all the home owners that will be enraged.

And June 1st is rapidly approaching.

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