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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.

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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.

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Four months after Katrina struck, there are still mountains of debris to be cleaned up as this image taken in December in downtown Bay St. Louis shows. ( James Cheng / MSNBC.com)


Four months have passed since Hurricane Katrina roared ashore in Hancock County, Miss., changing forever in just a few hours the landscape and lives of its 46,000 residents.

In many ways, Bay St. Louis, Waveland and their surroundings are indeed rising from ruin. From Highway 90, the main commercial drag through both towns, to Beach Boulevard, which winds around the Bay of St. Louis and down the Gulf of Mexico, also tying the communities together, there is a hustle and bustle more befitting Wild West boomtowns than Southern verandas and bayous.

The challenge of temporarily housing the thousands of displaced residents appears to have been largely met. The Federal Emergency Management Agency reports that it has received 26,678 requests for help and has provided $95.5 million in housing assistance to the county, and $42 million for other needs. FEMA has placed 8,188 travel trailers and 13 mobile homes in Hancock County.

Government agencies, private builders and non-profit groups are gearing up for a massive blitz to build new permanent homes in the area. One of the most notable efforts is being undertaken by Habitat for Humanity, which is now seeking land for the thousands of homes it hopes to build across the Gulf Coast region in the next 18 months via its sweat-equity program.

There was some good news before Christmas for homeowners who had been told they did not need flood insurance, did not carry any and have been rebuffed by the carriers of their regular policies: The state of Mississippi plans to use billions of money it receives in a federal hurricane relief to give them grants for rebuilding.

Read about the situation when MSNBC.com reporters first visited the towns in October.

Before that rebuilding work can begin in earnest, however, there are still mountains of storm debris to be removed. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is running that project and reports that 2,512,917 cubic yards of debris have been removed so far, much of it from public streets and roads.

The clearing of individual residential lots in areas where Katrina left giant beaver dams of two-by-fours, roof decking and appliances is going slowly and that has become a frustration often heard on the streets and in public meetings. Contractors worked all last week in a lower Waveland neighborhood on Favre Street just to get a handful of parcels swept down to bare earth.

Post-Katrina commerce gains new footholds daily. Before Katrina, the Chamber of Commerce counted 1,400 businesses in the county. The chamber said 800 were damaged or destroyed. Many others temporarily shut down. A list maintained by the Mississippi Economic Council this week lists nearly 200 Hancock County concerns that are back in operation after the storm, from Granny’s Bait in Waveland to Yuki Art & Interiors in Bay St. Louis. Although the list includes some government entities and churches, it has doubled in size since mid-November.

One key link to the world beyond, the CSX Railroad bridge, should see its first freight cross the Bay of St. Louis before spring arrives. Within weeks, work will begin in earnest on an even more important connection, the Highway 90 vehicle bridge, although the date by when drivers will first be able to use it was pushed back by some months over funding issues.

The same federal largesse that will help some homeowners and pay for part of the bridge also will make the county’s schools, which suffered $26 million in Katrina damage, financially whole again, according to the school board. It took more than two months after the storm for classrooms to reopen, but by Christmas break, 3,858 kids, or 80 percent of the pre-storm student body, had returned, albeit many of them to temporary buildings. The focus on academics was a challenge as nearly half came from families left homeless or displaced by Katrina.

The financial news for local governments has not been as good. Although the two cities and the county will get plenty of help from FEMA and other sources to fund capital projects, they have had a far tougher time trying to balance their operating budgets in a post-Katrina world that has robbed them of most revenue from sales and property taxes, and, in the case of Bay St. Louis, casino operations. As the New Year approaches, the mayors and their councils, and the county board of supervisors, are poring over options to use borrowed funds and seek state and federal grants to keep their no-layoff vows.

The holidays found many county residents able to relax and spend time with friends and family. There were joyous reunions and time to swap stories by those who had ridden out the storm and share sad news of those who did not make it. There was even a FEMA trailer decorating contest.

And although Bay St. Louis and Waveland banned fireworks, a staple of New Years celebrations in many southern locales, one entrepreneur found a way to hawk pyrotechnic offerings anyway, guaranteeing at least a few bright spots as 2006 arrives.

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51 COMMENTS

thank goodness...for the progress....come on we all need the coast back....i'll see ya'll!!!

Dear LORD GOD All Mighty I pray with all my heart and soul that your loving grace and peace shine upon the people of Waveland and Bay St Louis Ms. May GODS grace and peace be with you from our FATHER and the LORD JESUS CHRIST. amen. Many of you have become close friends of ours. We love every one of you and share your pain in our hearts here in Alabama. I will never forget the humble feeling that we got from your loving hearts of compassion "CHRIST" when we came and feed people and brought supplies at the corner of Hwy 90 and 603 at the Exxon Station and Right-Aid. Hundreds of people linger in my mind and prayers, one of the most memerable was the day I gave a lady the HOLY BIBLE and as she started to cry so did I and told me that this means more to her than anything anyboby else has done. We Just stood there and cried, embraced in each other arms ; HUMBLE, CARING, CHRISTIAN people. That what you'll find in Waveland and Bay St Louis. I just want everybody in America to know that JESUS CHRIST is alive and is working miricles in Hancock County Ms everyday. If the CHRISTIANS had not shown up after Katrina I realy don't know what would have happened to these people. GOD THE FATHER and lives in our hearts.
CAN YOU FEEL HIS LOVE....

Thank you for your story on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. While we sympathize with the plight of those in New Orleans, it seems as if the news media has forgotten Mississippi. For 70 miles, from the LA line to the AL line, The Mississippi Gulf Coast is devastated. Slabs and piles of debris are all that are left of a once beautiful area. The lucky ones are living in FEMA trailers, but many are still camping out in tents waiting for assistance - and it's cold!

Every time we turn on the television we see stories about New Orleans. But rarely is there a story about Mississippi, a place where people are pulling together to resurrect their beloved coast, where state government has declined to point fingers and just got about the business of helping our people, where our police and firefighters were heroes who stayed to help the people they serve, where wonderful people from all over the country have come to help. I guess all that is not newsworthy.

Thank you - again - so much for those in local, state and national leadership who listened and learned from the history lessons we presented from the past - and how we can save lives in these kinds of events.

We applaude the efforts of ind citizens and faith based org's who have provided the help, love, and support needed too, as well as the media who have not forgotten the importance of sharing the light on /of a very, very difficult situation.

Stephen Rene
www.eBusinessProfessionals.us
www.ParentsWhoCare.us
--------
Changing Lives for the Better Everyday!
Together We Can Make a Difference!
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What happen to the people in New Orleans, and Mississippi gulf coast was the worst thing that ever happen to black people. Some how the levy broke, by water or by man. Thousand of black people where kill by the ocean, and thousand was kill by our president. Bush watch thousand of black people die. This is a shame, our president that supposes to protect us, watch thousand of black people die. Because he don’t like black people. I couldn’t believe it with my own eyes, that our government will let black American people die, and wouldn’t help them. For a week they went without water food and shelter after storm. Bush helps another country out. Billion of dollars that our government sent to Israel, billion of dollars sent to India for the tsunmi. But million of black and poor white people lose their home and job when the storm hit.
What happen to the fema trailer for the black people and poor white to live in, because their home was destroy? Again the government fails the people. Bush is a killer, liar, and he destroyed many people lives. I believe with all my heart that bush had a lot to do with 911. The truth will come out. Bush is an evil man. He is cold hearted, and cheated his way in the white house. Republican are lairs and theft, democrats are lazy and worthless. This country is so mess up. The people can’t and want standup for them and put their trust in men’s that is evil. What ever happen to this country, we deserve it.

I DON'T BELIEVE MY HEART HAS EVER BEEN AS HEAVY AS IT WAS FOLLOWING KATRINA . I FEEL VERY SORRY FOR ALL THE PEOPLE AFFECTED BY THE STORM . I LIVE IN SOUTH FLORIDA ,SO I'VE PERSONALLY BEEN AFFECTED BY ALL THE AFTER EFFECTS THAT COME FROM A CATASTROPHY .I ONLY HOPE THAT PEOPLE WILL LEARN TO PREPARE OR GET OUT OF THE WAY !! IF THEY DEPEND ON SOMEBODY ELSE TO HELP THEM (GOVT,GOD,FEMA )THEY ARE SETTING THEMSELVES UP FOR DISAPPOINTMENT . PLEASE ,PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ARE PREPARED . I THINK WE WILL SEE MORE STORMS AND MORE TRAGEDY IN COMING YEARS, UNFORTUNATELY ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE WHO DONATED MONEY MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO BE SO GENEROUS EVERY YEAR.

The Gulfcoast and its citizens have had to endure a terrible natural disaster that caught the nation and its leaders offguard.My prayers and wishes is for the victims and for those who have helped out the best they could. I agree with David from Fl.except for the referance to God,KEEP PRAYING HE IS LISTENING!

I can't believe you would actually post the ignorant rantings of "mary had a little lamb" This person is obviously deranged and not at all well informed. As a resident of the devasted Mississippi Gulf Coast, I can assure "mary" that the hurricane did not only affect black people. Her information is obviously flawed. I think that one needs to look at the leadership in New Orleans--it was the mayor (who is black) who failed the citizens of NO. I truly resent the racial slurs and vitriol directed at George Bush. People like "Mary" should not be allowed to post such hateful and hurtful things.

It is a shame how people think that everything is about race. Sooner or later we should do away with statements about race and make them about people. Quit blaming the wrong people for things when you don't understand the whole story. You choose where you live and how you live, so blame yourself for your life. You choose to live it like you do or you choose to change it for the better. What happened was tragic but what keeps happening afterwards is down right disgraceful. All anyone can do know is move forward and try to make things better.

The response to America during this horrible hurricane bombardment is somewhat similar to the nation's response to the attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Fellow Americans were hurting badly and America
responded out of love and there was a committment to
win the battle. This must begin in the rebuilding of
our churches and then into the communities in all the land, and then we will be on high ground that
will hold in all storms. My prayers for those in the
South and God is with them.

It's about time something was said about MS. All I have been hearing is New Orleans. I'm happy to hear that progress is finally being made. I know nothing will ever be the same, but Katrina will always be in our hearts and minds as things try to get back to normal and we who surived are called the lucky ones.

Wait until MHALL finds out about the Easter Bunny. I guess that will be govt's fault also. The post is obviously the rantings of someone who is posing. Trying to set a political tone to the diaster when the truth is that those who stayed in New Orleans chose to do so on their own accord. Whatever their rationalization is they chose to stay. The National Weather Service warned us, the state warned us and issued evacuation orders and the local officials warned us. If you live in a bowl you get out before the storm hits. I have lived here all my life and I knew that from the time I was old enough to crawl.

I received an email from a friend who is working in the south. With his permission, I'd like to share this with everyone. It's important that those who have any kind of pull, connections to the media...get the word out........People still need help! Let's not forget those who aren't being heard.

"It seems so long ago that I've had time for myself, time just to sit and think of home. I wish I could say that I am doing as well as you. There are times since I've had time to really look at what was left behind after the hurricane the thousands of people that have been affected will never really recover. The emotional and mental suffering is still a raw open wound for most if not all these people.
The effort of finding water, food clothing is a major event. Peoples days are planned around making the trip to these shelters to receive the basic necessities just to survive. As I was driving through these little towns or what used to be a town you can't help but think what has been wiped off the face of the earth forever. Families still looking for other family members and for the aged it's even harder. Nursing homes set up in make shift buildings one today was a series of tents and a few trailers. Most of the schools I saw today have been taken over by other federal or state agencies. I haven't seen kids playing in a school ground since I've been down here. I know what we are doing is important and some day I can only hope and pray that some of the memories and the suffering will fade. I'll keep looking for the positive! I keep looking for each and every sunrise and sunset. I have found my quite places where I know I am alone and I let it go find my peace and continue with what needs to be done. There never seems to be an end to the half thoughts or half finished coffee cups laying around verywhere."

WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO YOU REPORTING ON THE HURRICANE KATRINA LOSSES ALONG THE MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST. MANY ARE STILL DIGGING OUT.

WE ARE SADDEND BY THE LOSSES IN NEW ORLEANS. THE BIG EASY IS A FAVORITE FOR MANY OF US TO VISIT ON THE WEEKENDS. I HAVE BEEN IN LOVE WITH THE BIG EASY SINCE I WAS JUST A YOUNG KID. THE THRILL OF TAKING THE STEAMBOAT DOWN TO THE NEW ORLEANS ZOO IS FAVORITE OF MINE. IF YOU HAVE NOT HAD A FRENCH BEIGNET FROM THE CAFE DUMONDE DOWN IN THE FRENCH QUARTER YOU HAVE NOT ENJOYED LIVING.

It was a tough New Year's for us this year as like many others throughout the Gulf region. We (I) normally made a trek to Bay St Louis for Mr. Ernie's "The Good Life" New Years party to meet and great our family of friends throughout the Bay-Waveland area. Living in the Bay area for a year or so and working at TGL, part-time, I became an adopted son of the people and I have never looked back. We were vacationing in the area and had to depart because of Katrina. During my time in Iraq, other than my immediate family, my heart and prayers were with my Bay-Waveland family and their recovery.

Prior to retiring from the Marine Corps this year, no matter where we were stationed; LA, TX or PA, the Holidays, special events and the summers were a special time in the Bay-waveland area.

Missing the annual Marine Corps Birthday party at Mr. Ernies was a tough one. I am glad to hear that many got together, at what once was TGL, to celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday in November. Semper Fi!!

My prayers and thoughts go out to my Gulf Coast family and what they are going through. Not a day goes by that I (we) don't think of you.

I wish for a good and fresh new year for you all. I look forward to returning back to the area for a sense of normalcy of life.

we all had some bad storms here as well but i do wish the best for everyone on the gulf coast may god be with you all in the coming years

Thanks Mike for another great story. We are making strides, be it baby steps or giant steps. Sometimes its hard to see amidst the debris, but if you really look you can see the progress. Hopefully 2006 will be a year of renewal and rebuilding. Thanks again MSNBC for giving us a face, a voice and a name. As for MHALL, GIVE ME A BREAK!!!!

I was home recently in La. There was some good things I saw and bad. I spoke to people from New Orleans working in the stores in the places I grew up. Which made me feel good. But also I saw trailers that where put into place by FEMA that no one ever moved in.....Whats the deal with this? I guess someone has ananswer somewhere. I spoke to people who invited people to live in their homes from the gulf area. I spoke to guys who work for drilling componies in the gulf region. Their companies helped them and is still helping them rebuild. But yet hotles in the area are still full of victims. Where are thses people going after they are put out. By the way the hotles made big money....the trailers are going to be sold...yep! Hopefully people want be left homeless.

Than tell us what is the story, there are black people still living in tent, and it’s very cold their. Are you all living in a tent, or sleeping on the ground, are you begging for food, and hoping the government help you get back on your feet. Are you the one blaming the victims for living there? Or complaining about how you pay taxes and it not fare to you that the victims use your money. God forbid anything happen to.

and if i sound crazy, so be it, at lest i see the turth.

Mary, PLEASE!!!!! Have you been to any of the towns that were affected by the storm????? Do you realize that Katrina did not look at color when she decidced to wipe out 80% of each of the towns on the Mississippi Gulf Coast???? Did you realize that New Orleans is roughly 72% African American who voted for an African American mayor that was running around after the storm screaming "Who's in charge?" When in fact that was HIS job to evacuate and secure New Orleans? Did you realize that the Army Corps of Engineers is a federal agency responsible for erecting the faulty levees in New Orleans that could only withstand a category 3 hurricane? Did you realize that the levee broke in New Orleans with no 30-40 foot tidal surge as there was in Missippi? There are people of many different races that are living in tents still, not just blacks! If you are so concerned, leave fairy tale land and volunteer in a hurricane ravaged area! I am so sick of hearing that this is a race issue. Many were affected black, white, young, and old! GROW UP! USE YOUR REAL NAME! AND GET A LIFE!!! If you are SO unhappy with the way things are going, do something with your life instead of posting.

Rest assure Citizens of Mississippi, the news media has not forgotten any of the residence of Mississippi. There are many accounts and news updates (especially for Bay St. Louis and Waveland) Brian Williams of NBC has made it his mission to report nightly on the goings on in Mississippi. What makes the news are stories of towns and people who are working hard to rebuild and revive their small towns. What does not make the news are the numbers of residents still waiting for assistance, but that is OK we are all being recongized one way or another. Please be patient and understand we will rebuild and be back on track with our lives and business but it is a slow process of rebuilding and recovery. The truth that 'Mary" would like to see or write about should actually be research a bit more, her comments are just that "crazy" they needs to not point the finger or blame, we all need to keep our heads and realize not everyone sees what we do on a daily basis.

I lived part time in New Orleans and part time in Clermont Harbor,MS. My home in N.O. is fine. My parents and in-laws lost their homes in St. Bernard Parish. No place in the N.O. area compares to Clermont Harbor, Waveland and the Bay area. Everything between my house and the beach seems to have washed up onto my property. Most of my house and it's broken contents are in the lot next to mine. With family members to help and work to resume, I've only returned to Clermont harbor 3 times since the storm. Getting news about the area has been impossible, until now that I've found this site. Thanks to all who are participating. Is there any truth to the rumor that permits to rebuild in Clermont Harbor may not be allowed? If so then what will happen to those properties? Also, what steps do I need to take to get my land cleared of all that debris?

Barry,

Check with the County services to request the ROE (right-of-entry) form to have your property cleared of debris. You will need to complete the form, sign, and return. Currently, the Corps of Engineers has been contracted to perform the task of debris removal.

Mary,,, I am a Hurricane Hunter (crew chief),, have been for 24 years,, my home in Pass Christian MS was almost totaled. We, the (Hunters have been telling people for years,, if it gets close,,, run. Unfortunatly alot of people,,of ALL colors don't ever listen. So,, in my opinion,, the ignorants died, not any race creed or color,, ignorant people come in all colors.

Even though I'v emoved away from MS over thirty years ago and now resides in GA. I have relatives that stil live there in Grenada. Thank God they was not directly affected by the hurricane but I still feel a loss because of my connection to the state. I am proud of my state and like it has always been said' We take care of our own". I'm hoping and praying that the country will continue to pray and support these towns any way necessary.

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