What is this?

Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

Map of Southeaster United States

This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

Background on the towns and this project is available under the about tab above.

Click here for bios of the reporters and media producers who have worked on the series.

How you can help


Get the latest stories, journal entries and images via RSS subscription.

Destroyed cars lie where Hurricane Katrina's 30-foot ocean surge left them, battered and scattered amid the wreckage of Waveland and Bay St. Louis. Many cars were mangled and all were ruined by the salt water dunking, which corrodes electrical and other components even after the vehicles dry completely. Like houses of the area, vehicles that appear to have escaped destruction are doomed to failure by internal rotting.

Click "play" to see more vehicles and to hear car enthusiast Frank Hille describe the effect of hurricanes on automobiles.

MAIN PAGE NEXT POST Liquor store owner gets $25,000 'win'

Email this EMAIL THIS


Sadly, I have already seen vehicles for sale which have obvious salt water damage here in Memphis, TN. Those who are unaware of how to spot such vehicles are open to serious financial distress. Let the buyer beware, these vehicles are coming to a lot near you.

When we evacuated we left one car at the house which was under construction in Pass Christian right on Bayou Portage and the truck at a friend's house. A tree fell on the truck but only did minor damage, the car was under 15 feet of water. I was not prepared as to the extremely sad feelings it brought to the surface when I saw this car sitting there in all the mud and debrie.

Awsome destruction. Hope they had insurance.

In order to check the history of your vehicle, it would be wise to call Experian Automotive and have Auto check run a vehicle history report on the VIN you are looking at. My friend did it and saved him tons of time and money! Ask for an Autocheck at your local car dealership, they can provide you with the history of the car. If you are a car dealer and you want to sign up to run these reports you can call them at 866-686-6972, I looked the number up.

Absolutely, this is "caveat emptor" time for real. Everyone is looking for that "deal" so that they may elevate themselves with that American status symbol-"the AUTOMOBILE" If you are not a mechanic, body repairman or liscensed appraiser, find one before you grab that "DEAL"


The car we left behind in Jackson County (MS) when we evacuated had salt water in the ashtray when we returned. We are 8 miles from the beach.

I can't believe that anyone in the general public would sell their fellow man a "bad" car without telling them the truth, and "they" say used car salesmen are dishonest. Believe me when I say that a buyer would be in a better position buying from a licensed dealer rather than from the general public. They can be comforted by the fact that the dealer stands to loose a great deal by doing something so wrong, not to mention the buyer would have recourse with a dealer. As a car salesman for the past 30 years, I believe that dealers are far more honest than any seller in the general public.

I want to buy one of these wrecks to drive back to New York from Key West. Any ideas where I can buy one cheap.
henry [email protected]

Frank! Your voice has never sounded so sweet! I was worried about you and am so glad you are alright. I hope your properties came out ok too. For those of you who don't know him, Frank Hille is one of the best mechanics and THE BEST commercial landlord in Hancock County. He's too modest to admit any of this but he's also one of the most interesting guys you could ever meet. Thinking of you and your family Frank.... Kammy

This one area that the government can do it's job. All DMV's have the car records to check for damage unless someone is paying them to ignore the facts. None of these cars are safe in any way as the electronics are not repairable, airbags etc. They all need to be recycled as in junked, scrapped. This will also help GM and Ford get back on their feet.

Yep, that saying, "If it SOUNDS too good to be true, it likely is!" So, if the car sounds like too good a deal it is likely to be. Unfortunately for those who lost their cars and due to insurance issues and lack of coverage and whatnot, I certainly feel bad for the owners of these now wrecked vehicles that nobody can really get any money for aside from the sale of the scrap metal.

Again, buyer beware and if you are searching for a new/used car at a good price, they are out there but as another said, check with Experian, and the vin number hopefully is not a copy/fraud-as this has been a fairly new thing with auto theft and the copying of VIN numbers. Also, check for painted areas and undercarriage of the vehicle, as well as seams around doors and around inside of the engine compartment for signs of rust or what may have been an attempt to hide rust.

Again, our prayers with those who have lost everything, and their cars too that are now basically worthless. We hope that the future insurance industry can somehow add "floods" and not calling these things "Acts of God" so as to NOT have to pay claims will be taken care of-What I am trying to say is, hopefully the insurance companies will insure your vehicles, regardless (unless of course it is a deliberate act of damage to one's vehicle to get out of paying fees, payments, whatever). After all, when people PAY insurance for their cars, they should have the ability to recover loss of their vehicle, right?

Well, night night all, and may you all have a blessed Thanksgiving Day, you are all in our prayers for the best of today, and in all of your future endeavors.

As a trade publication editor in the construction industry, my tours through New Orleans, Biloxi and Gulfport revealed more than torn infrastructure. I also saw a multitude of ruined vehicles strewn about. Motorhomes included - one nearly perpendicular to the ground. I played photographer along with reporter while travelling the Gulf Coast back in September. If you're interested in some of my photography, it's well worth a glance.

Take care,

It used to be that we Alaskans regarded used autos in the south as "primo"...unaffected by the road salt used in northern climes. Up here, if cars aren't rusted by salt, then they are beat up from all the accidents on the snow and ice. It's a challenge finding a decent used car. And now we have to worry about salt damaged hurricane "specials".

While Carfax, Autocheck & `Experian MAY catch & report flood damage, it usually takes quite awhile for the damage to be documented & show up on their reports. Often it does not show at all. eBay is the most likely place to see these cars. If there was no insurance there is no record of the flood. No substitute for thorough in person inspection & due diligence. Some things to look for are rust on trim screws in floor, door jams, trunk & under hood.

Hi, I think the states need to make sure these cars are not resold period. I have been in the used car business for 26 years and I am very concerned that some dishonest people are going to resale these cars. I am also in the sued parts business and I do not even want one of these to junk. These cars are not good for anything. I bought a few flood cars to junk (none were resold as a whole car) after a hurricane in North Carolina in the mid 90's. After that I became experianced in flood cars. They are useless the parts are not any good. I lost a lot of money when this happened. I will never buy these hurricane cars even to junk. I feel so sorry for any unaware people who purchase one of the things. They should just be crushed and used as salvage metal. The state goverments should make sure these cars are not allowed back on the market.

I hope someone donates these cars to an automotive training program. That way the car has value in training young technicians and the insurance or person donating gets a write off. The cars are in the training program and never sold!

Seems to me with all the laws of the land ,heck add one more ...no car can be sold without a full discloser on that car and must accompany that car through out its life!!!!!!! bet car dealers would love that law!!!!!

dont look like those cars could be sold ...except to a junkyard

I have seen 2 cars come through the dealership where I am employed as an auto technition.
My dealer principal bought them at auction.
We then do a complete inspection and repair any defects.
These 2 cars had been completly submerged and then cleaned up to hide water damage.
Look for mud and debris signs in areas that are not accessable to pressure washers.Also look up behind the dash for dirt and grass,these areas are ard to clean.if you suspect water, Run.

I think any licensed vehicle dealer caught selling storm damaged vehicles (Old or New) should be fined, and made to give (free) the person they tried to screw, a new 2006 from the factory. A dealer in this case refers to used or new car dealers. No exceptions!!! Dealers buy most of their used cars at auction, and if they don't, they inspect trade-ins for damage before a deal is struck.
Why put all the blame of a purchase on the purchaser. You don't go to a jewelery store expecting to buy fake jewelery.

buyers, really beware...water damaged cars were hauled out of the Florida Keys by the thousands, no mud there to look for

I'm glad to see that Frank was still able to muster up a smile. Our lives are SO much more important than a car. With that being said if you were able to see your car or even go back to see the destruction you were still blessed with your life to continue & just pick up the pieces. Don't ever give up, there's a blessing in every lesson!

Everyone needs to know that the Carfax and Auto check people only have the informaion that the insurance companies give them, so do more than just run a check on any used car. Any reputable dealer will let you have an independent mechanic look at a car before you buy it. If they won't agree to this, it's best to keep looking. Remember, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

There are "minor water damage" cars appearing in the online auction sites already, as far north as Canada. Its a true tragedy that people will take advantage of others after they have lost everything. Use a "carfax" or something similar, before you buy, please!

Comments for this post have been closed.


Trackbacks are links to weblogs that reference this post. Like comments, trackbacks do no appear until approved by us. The trackback URL for this post is: http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b0aa69e200d8349f87d469e2

More Rising from Ruin

Story tips?