Like millions of Americans, I've been glued to my TV and computer screen, following the onslaght of hurricane Katrina.
My interest was/is personal. On Saturday afternoon, my oldest daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter evacuated from Diamonhead, Mississippi, a community located along the Pearl River, which separates Mississippi from Louisiana. They arrived at her in-law's house in west central Mississippi about four hours later. It was a wise decision; western Hancock County--including Diamonhead--was ground zero for the storm in Mississippi.
Further north, our son and middle daughter live in northern Mississippi (about 70 miles south of Memphis), and the Former Spook still owns a home there. Our youngest daughter lives in the Ozarks and is unaffected by the storm, as is your humble correspondent, safe and sound on the eastern seaboard. So far, we haven't heard from any of our children today. Phone service and electrical power are out across much of Mississippi, and it may be a month--or longer--before utility services are completely restored. We did receive a call from our son last night, who was riding out the storm at our home. He reported that a early gust of wind leveled a giant oak that sits along the property line between our lot and our neighbor. The tree fell on an old building on our neighbor's property; miraculously, our house was untouched, and the building suffered only minor damage.
The death toll from Katrina now stands at 55 in Mississippi, and it's rising. Many of the dead were killed at a beachfront apartment complex in Biloxi, where residents decided to ride out the storm. The incident seems eerily reminiscent of Hurricane Camille in 1969, which claimed the lives of 250 people along the Mississippi and Louisiana coast. Thirty-eight of those victims were killed in another ocean-front apartment complex, devastated by the storm. One resident from that complex survived by climbing out an upper floor window, and lashing himself to a tree, as Camille's massive storm surge lapped at his feet. The next day, the survivor discovered he was in the tree's upper branches, more than 30 feet off the ground. Similar stories of survival during Katrina will likely emerge during the coming days.
Complete coverage of Katrina's impact on south Mississippi (from the Biloxi Sun Herald) can be found here. Today's front page of the New Orleans Times-Picyaune sums it up well. More coverage from the Big Easy can be found here.
One final note; late yesterday, I received an e-mail from a gentlemen who's father elected to ride out the storm in his home in Diamondhead. He asked me to contact my daughter and son-in-law, and check on his dad when they return to their home. Suddenly, I felt blessed; while the phone lines were down, and I couldn't communicate with my children, I had some assurance that they were safe. Thousands of other families didn't have that assurance, and now they can only wait and pray for the best.