Above:A 360-degree photo shows a rusted boat and other wreckage at Bayou Caddy, a port west of Waveland. (John Brecher / MSNBC.com)

About this project

In the coming months, MSNBC.com will focus its coverage of the Hurricane Katrina recovery on two cities on the hard-hit Mississippi coast.

Coastal Miss. vicinity

Though Bay St. Louis and Waveland are far from the media spotlight on New Orleans, the intertwined fates of the people, businesses and institutions in these towns tell the story of an entire region's struggle to recover from the most destructive storm in U.S. history.

Read about the towns

Of cats and commerce

Posted: Wednesday, November 16 at 12:49 pm CT by

Last night the rain, wind and cold came through. My cat, Freeway (named that since a friend's daughter found him on the interstate with a brother and 3 dead brothers and sisters in pouring down rain), went wild about 11 p.m.

Freeway spent Hurricane Katrina in my house, while I was at Stennis Space Center. My next door neighbors let him out after the storm, and, when I returned home, I found hundreds of muddy kitty cat footprints all over the house, on furniture, the washing machine, the ripped mini blinds, etc.

So last night, when the rain started hitting the trailer and the wind started blowing, he freaked out and wanted to go outside. I let him out, but the scars are obviously still there for a great many of us, including our animals. By the way, my other cat, Bleu, a 16-year-old Himalayan, did not make it. She stayed outside for Katrina, and has not been seen since.


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Lucky this time

Posted: Wednesday, November 16 at 11:28 am CT by

Heavy rain moved through the Bay-Waveland area overnight, leaving in its wake cold and windy weather. But the area avoided the severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that were seen to the north.

"We were very fortunate. It seemed to go right around us," said David Greiser, a spokesman for the Hancock County Emergency Operations Center.

At least 20 people spent the night in the shelter provided by Stennis Space Center nearby, which had offered to take up to 1,200.

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The Benvenuttis: Heart of the neighborhood

Posted: Wednesday, November 16 at 01:27 am CT by

Pete and Betty Benvenutti watch the demolition of the 100-year-old front section of their house that was rendered unlivable by Hurricane Katrina. Click "play" to hear Betty and Pete describe the history of their house.

The house at 114 Felicity grew slowly over five generations, but it came down quickly. Pete and Betty Benvenutti, who lived there 41 years, are making plans to rebuild.

After surviving countless storms, including Camille in 1969 and unnamed monsters in 1915 and 1947, Katrina fatally wounded the 107-year-old structure with a wall of water that many have likened to a tsunami. Wrecking crews finished the job in a few quick hours this month, leaving just the shell of a back wing added by the couple in the 1960s.


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Calm before the storm

Posted: Tuesday, November 15 at 10:09 pm CT by

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is bracing for its first severe weather since the outer bands of Hurricane Rita swept through here nearly two months ago. Forecasters say a strong cold front is slowly making its way across the south-central United States, threatening to bring damaging winds, heavy rain, quarter-size hailstones and possibly even tornadoes.

With thousands of Hancock County residents, relief workers and contractors living in trailers and tents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, authorities were urging people to spend the night in shelter facilities set up at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, about 10 miles west of Bay St. Louis. So far, few people have taken them up on the offer.


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Art colony traumatized, but still alive

Posted: Tuesday, November 15 at 05:49 pm CT by

My name is Gwen Impson and I am president of the The Arts Hancock County Mississippi. I’d like to begin this diary with an introduction of who we are and where we are.

Hancock County is located on the western edge of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and is comprised of several distinct areas: Bay St. Louis, Waveland, Diamondhead, Pearlington and the Kiln.


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Amid destruction, entertainment

Posted: Tuesday, November 15 at 12:47 pm CT by

Hollywood stuntman Randall Huber demonstrates a movie-style hair pull with a volunteer prior to showing Spiderman 2 at the temporary outdoor venue called Hope Theater.

Click "play" above to hear Randall talk about bringing entertainment to Bay St. Louis.

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Faith fueled by Faulkner

Posted: Tuesday, November 15 at 09:56 am CT by

For a fresh correspondent, arriving by night in devastated Bay St. Louis is an unsettling experience.

The air is muggy and warm, and the full moon is filtered by passing high clouds. But the car headlights reveal glimpses of destruction: A truck in a waterlogged ditch, a flattened shopping center and piles and piles of debris.


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Dan Marine: Fueled by adversity

Posted: Monday, November 14 at 05:53 pm CT by

Click 'Play' to hear Dan Marine talk about his business plans for the future.

WAVELAND, Miss. -- Katrina’s flood waters had barely receded when Dan Marine was driving into the disaster zone, against the flow of cars moving north, trying to get out. It was three days after the hurricane hit, and he wanted to see the damage to his home and furniture business on Highway 90. He expected it to be bad, and it was.

"A day before the storm I was the biggest used furniture dealer in southern Mississippi. The day after, I was looking for a mattress to sleep on," he says.


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An endangered beacon

Posted: Monday, November 14 at 12:28 pm CT by

Brice Phillips, chief engineer of radio station WQRZ, holds one of the 3,000 radios handed out by FEMA after Hurricane Katrina. Click "Play" to hear Phillips describe the station's mission and how it weathered the storm.

KILN, Miss. -- The first face you see when you walk into Hancock County's Emergency Operations Center is that of Christine Stach. She's the program director of WQRZ, and her location here is a sign of just how vital the small, non-profit station (103.5 FM) has become in these parts.

Before Katrina, Stach, who's in her mid-30s, and her partner, Brice Phillips, 39, the chief engineer, operated WQRZ as a low-power community station out of their house at the end of Indian Street outside Waveland. Phillips erected the tower himself.


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Simple chores a challenge

Posted: Monday, November 14 at 10:58 am CT by

That old saying -- there is always light at the end of the tunnel. OK, that sounds great, but if I can just find the tunnel I think I would feel a little better. Today in the FEMA "TROUSE" (trailer-house) started out like normal. Rise and shine from the bed, trip over our cat, and take the normal two steps into the kitchen. Grabbed for the bottled water and the coffee pot that’s on its last leg. Darcy got ready for school and we headed down the beach towards the bay.

Some tent families are going to be doing cartwheels; Santa is coming early, with a caravan of five spanking new FEMA trailers heading down Highway 90 toward Bay St. Louis. OK FEMA, let’s kick this in gear here and double the order, if you can send five, why can’t you send 10? Come on FEMA, my grandmother moved faster than you.


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