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

Arts District -- lost but not forgotten

Posted: Tuesday, December 6 at 05:48 pm CT by

"Old Town" Bay St. Louis was the heart of the arts district in our community and Main Street was where the action was. Galleries, shops, restaurants lined Main all the way to the waters edge with more shops along Beach Blvd.

All that is gone now. Beach Blvd. has been swept away; there is no more street. The businesses on Main Street are only shells at best.

Main Street


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Fallen trees become building blocks

Posted: Tuesday, December 6 at 03:49 pm CT by

LAKESHORE, Miss. -- Why give a man pre-cut lumber when you can teach him to cut it himself?

That’s partly the philosophy behind the donation of a portable sawmill by a California church to a Baptist congregation in Lakeshore, Miss., a Hancock County town just west of Waveland.

There’s actually more to it than that. After all, it’s faster to just ship in lumber from outside the area. The big payoff is the ability to use trees swatted down by Katrina while also bringing the community together through acts of kindness –- in this case, using the debris to build steps and porches for folks in FEMA trailers and eventually larger structures, even homes.


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Aid from artists to artists

Posted: Tuesday, December 6 at 01:10 pm CT by

BAY ST. LOUIS -- Katrina took away Brian Nettles’ livelihood, but he was about to get it back after two New Mexico artists rolled into town with a U-haul trailer.

You see, Nettles had made his living making and selling pottery, but Katrina washed away his studio, supplies and $40,000 in art.

“I have nothing to sell,” he says, noting that 80 percent of his annual sales would have been from October to December.

He’d heard some donated supplies were arriving and showed up to help unload, not knowing what was available. When the trailer door was opened, there it was: a potter’s wheel.


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Songs for the season

Posted: Tuesday, December 6 at 06:53 am CT by

As a songwriter, I know that you can't write a song that is appropriate for every situation, but the songs I hear this Christmas seem particularly out of place. I know that many people want to feel some sense of normalcy, or the way things always have been, but for me, things just aren't, and I don't think I can force them to be.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with this particular holiday. The put on "good cheer" and rampant commercialism have always seemed incongrous with what I imagine the meaning of the season to be. I resent seeing Christmas decorations up at Halloween. I think it's a sad state to wish your life away. I also fail to see how a 3 year old neice or nephew saying "I want this! I want this! I want this!" makes it "the most wonderful time of the year.


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Waiting for FEMA funds

Posted: Monday, December 5 at 06:55 pm CT by

WAVELAND –- Mayor Tommy Longo says it was like “walking on eggshells.” That was the feeling he had when FEMA wanted local governments to file requests every 30 days for funds to pay staff overtime. He and others lobbied for six months, and finally got three.

So the next deadline is Jan. 15 -- “positively” a breather, Longo says, but probably not enough time either to stabilize staff salaries. Overtime in Waveland alone has reached $700,000 in the first three months since Katrina, Longo notes.


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Classes under construction

Posted: Monday, December 5 at 03:43 pm CT by

BAY ST. LOUIS -- A month after most schools have reopened in Hancock County, in scenes that are playing out across the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast, there are still plenty of signs that this is no regular school year for students. At Bay High School, dozens of parents lined up on a recent day not to receive supplies but shoes for their children.

At St. Clare School in Waveland, Principal Mark Cumella’s domain has gone from a brick-and-mortar campus to 21 Quonset huts. “Our five structures were all shaved to the slab,” he says.


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Gnats return with a vengeance

Posted: Monday, December 5 at 02:03 pm CT by

I thought Katrina would be nice enough to wipe out the gnat population but I was wrong.  They are back and hungrier than ever! We were helping our friends get ready for a party this weekend and we were working outside.  They would swarm around every part of your body and attack all at once!

No one likes gnats, all the people I talk to say, "I miss it there so much".  I really want to tell you all that you are so lucky you don't have gnats!

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Follow-up to FEMA Flub

Posted: Monday, December 5 at 01:39 am CT by

This is a follow-up to a recent Citizens Diary entry which elicited more responses than I ever dreamed.  Thank you MSNBC.com for spotlighting Bay St. Louis and Waveland, Mississippi!  The apparent readership of your website is mind-boggling.

I want to address those who assumed we didn’t have any insurance and are expecting money from Uncle Sam.  Are you all so down on those of us who choose to live along the beautiful coast of this country that you’d think we’d be so stupid as to not have insurance???

I wrote that we were "denied assistance because our case was declared ineligible due to insufficient damage."


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A pre-fab future?

Posted: Sunday, December 4 at 01:36 pm CT by

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- The drawings were impressive and the architects intelligent, so it came as a bit of a shock to Waveland and Bay St. Louis residents when the Governors Commission on rebuilding Mississippi’s Gulf Coast suggested they look at a certain type of housing to start with: pre-fab.

No, not doublewide mobile homes, the architects assured people at both events last week.

Bill Dennis, a Rhode Island architect who led the Bay St. Louis design team, explained that the manufactured home industry has come a long way and that homes starting at $25,000 can look good, exceed storm requirements, be added onto in the future or even become a guest house when a larger home is built on one’s property.


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Standing tall

Posted: Sunday, December 4 at 12:00 pm CT by

WAVELAND, Miss. -- She’s a survivor who didn’t turn and run -- not in 1969 when Camille roared through or in Katrina this year or during smaller storms that have raked this town since the 1950s.

Right across from the beach in Waveland, a statue of the Virgin Mary at St. Clare Elementary School and Catholic Church has seen and felt the worst of the weather.

Katrina took out a seawall, all the nearby buildings and part of the grotto protecting the statue, but the statue is still there.

“She withstood,” says Principal Mark Cumella. “She was facing the fury and it didn’t wipe her out.”

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