Katrina dominates third quarter events

Published 6:00 am Thursday, December 29, 2005

Hurricane Katrina struck Aug. 29 and forced Mississippians totake a new perspective on issues.

Katrina blasted away the peace of an otherwise relativelyuneventful late summer. Even today, scarcely a Mississippi newsevent occurs that is not influenced in some way by the devastatingstorm.


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Hurricane Katrina is the storm most will remember in 2005, butit was Hurricane Dennis that had coast residents worried a monthbefore. Lincoln County hotels and shelters began filling up July 8as coast residents fled northward to avoid Dennis. Mississippiansbreathed a sigh of relief as the former Category 4 storm turnedeastward to strike Florida and Alabama with much less force thananticipated. Southwest Mississippi saw only heavy rainfall andscattered high winds from the storm.

In other summer events, a former Loyd Star Attendance Centerteacher received a suspended sentence in mid-July after pleadingguilty to a felony count of fondling a student off school groundsearlier in the year.

Eighteen-year-old Ashley Palomarez was named the state’s firstMiss Mississippi Latina in May.


Local officials warned a day before Katrina struck that thestorm could be dangerous here and began making preparations.Interstate 55 South was closed to traffic to assist those fleeingthe Gulf Coast Aug. 28. City and county officials declared a localstate of emergency.

But no one was prepared for a storm that would break all therules. Not only did landfall not dampen the Category 4 storm, butit continued to remain strong as moved north the state. It wasstill a Category 3 storm as it crossed the southern Lawrence Countyline, lessening to Category 2 as it progressed through LincolnCounty.

The coast cities were not just devastated – several wereerased.

Locally, the damage was much less severe but was stillsubstantial. Houses and businesses were destroyed. Much of thearea’s population remained without power or water for weeks.

Travel on the county’s roads for the first week after the stormwas “at your own risk” with many of the roads still blocked bydowned forests and bridges either washed away or undermined byfast-running water.

By Aug. 31, officials were warning that recovery efforts herecould take months. In the meantime, coastal evacuees flooded intothe area and overflowed church and charity shelters opened to housethem.

Fortunately, area residents responded to the crisis with courageand determination to persevere. Volunteers rushed onto the roads tohelp clear roads. Residents opened their homes to evacuees or madesubstantial donations to help those in need both at home and on thecoast.

Long lines outside of area stores were met with somefrustration, but also with a general understanding that everyonewas doing what they could.

As governmental and charitable aid began trickling in, reportsbecame more mixed.

In many places, operations proceeded smoothly but in others massconfusion on the types of aid available and the necessaryqualifications infuriated people who stood in lines for hours toreceive no help. Eventually, as tempers cooled with the return ofutilities, the process improved and those in need of assistancewere directed to the right places.

September was a month of recovery. Roads were cleared andutilities restored. By the end of the month, much of southwestMississippi had returned to a degree of normalcy. Debris from thestorm continued to line city and couty roads well into November,but the roads were passable.

In the midst of hurricane recovery operations, Monticelloaldermen terminated Fire Chief Wayne Harrison. No detailedexplanation was given for firing the 19-year veteran of thedepartment, but the board did say Harrison was released for failingto perform the duties required of him and insubordination. RobertPatterson, a 13-year veteran of the department and director of thecounty’s civil defense, was promoted to chief immediately followingthe termination.

An amazing amount of support in recovery operations came frompeople across the United States. Most memorable among that supportwere places with a link to the local area.

Brookhaven, New York, sent an ambulance crew to assist King’sDaughters Ambulance Center through the crisis. And Park City, Ill.,whose mayor is a Mississippi native, sent trucks of supplies andadopted Brookhaven as a sister city.

Monticello, Ill., sent a caravan of supplies that included a1981 FMC fire truck to be donated to the town.

Morale in Monticello was boosted in mid-September by anannouncement from Global Packaging Systems Inc. that they wouldsoon be locating to the town to open a plant in the Kellwood andMcLane buildings. The company projected hiring more than 50 workersimmediately upon locating in the town and projected a total of morethan 275 jobs within five years.