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.
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.
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. – The Heritage Conservation Network is in a race against time on the Gulf Coast.
The nonprofit organization is seeking to preserve as many materials as possible from significant homes in Hancock County that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, including columns, doors, woodwork and flooring, in hopes that they can be recycled in the new structures that rise from the rubble.
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- “It’s another of our great bumps,” is how Charles Gray, director of the Hancock County Historical Society, describes Hurricane Katrina’s horrific impact on Bay St. Louis, Waveland and the surrounding Mississippi Gulf Coast.
"Bump" though it may turn out to be, Katrina dealt a devastating blow to the Gulf Coast's rich architectural history, and much of Gray's time is now devoted photographically documenting the losses among the 576 homes in Hancock County that were on the National Registry of Historical Places prior to Katrina. To do that, he often has to turn to landmarks in order to identify the slabs of concrete where the grand homes once stood.
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.
HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. -- If you feel the urge to buy Artillery Shells, Warhawk Missiles, B-29 Bombers or even an 8-Shot Hurricane at 3 a.m., you need look no further than “Crazy Carl’s” fireworks stand off Highway 90.
Despite the fact that both Bay St. Louis and Waveland have banned fireworks sales and use this year, fearing the possibility of a conflagration starting in the debris of Hurricane Katrina, "Crazy Carl's" has found a legal niche by getting a permit to set up shop on a slice of county land near the border between the two cities.
Habitat for Humanity executive Larry Gluth looks over a map of Hancock County with Wendy McDonald of Bay St. Louis. (John Brecher / MSNBC.com)
KILN, Miss. -- An ambitious plan to replace some of the thousands of homes lost to Hurricane Katrina is quickly taking shape on computer screens, drawing boards and back roads here in Hancock County.
Habitat for Humanity, the 30-year-old Christian-based nonprofit popularized by former President Jimmy Carter, plans to build “thousands and thousands” of homes via its self-help program during the next several years in hurricane-devastated communities across the South.
See how the Hancock Medical Center was damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- Like a patient coming out of major surgery, the hospital serving this and neighboring towns is slowly recovering.
And like a chief surgeon, Hal Leftwich, administrator of the Hancock Medical Center (http://www.hmc.org/), is watching his patient closely. Left homeless by Katrina like so many other locals, he is living in a FEMA trailer behind the hospital, next to two “dorm” trailers for ER nurses and doctors.
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. – If you want to learn a little something of Hancock County, there are any number of pleasant folks hereabouts who will kindly show you the sights and tell a tale or two.
But if you want the true lowdown, you will go with Jerry West. You will learn some good shortcuts for navigating the streets that slice across Highway 90 at angles confusing to an outsider. You will learn who lived where before Hurricane Katrina struck, which businesses are open and which were destroyed. You will learn where they might build condos.
But listen and watch closely and you will learn something far better than all of that.
WAVELAND, Miss. –- Despite the brave comments of some Katrina survivors that material possessions can be replaced, some of them cannot.
Near the top of that list are photographs -- snapshots of family vacations, graduation portraits, wedding albums, the priceless images that bring back past times both sweet and sad.
A bin at the entrance to the Wal-Mart here shows that one group plans to do what it can to help restore some of those losses. Shoppers are invited to bring and drop off whatever photos they have found amid the rubble.
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- Among the many signs that this town will return to better times in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is a shiny new playground in the heart of downtown.
The colorful facility, which sports four swings, a triple-wide slide, tiny teahouse, high-tech zip line and sand box, was bought to town by Kaboom!, a non-profit group that focuses on helping communities build playgrounds throughout the United States.
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- Carter Church’s heart may be in Bay St. Louis, but Carnival is in his blood. But then that’s to be expected of a man who’s reigned for nearly half a century as one of the pre-eminent costume makers for the courts of Mardi Gras Krewes.
“My family was always involved in Mardi Gras,” says the 62-year-old Church. “My grandfather was a member of Rex (an organization that helped create many of the traditions of New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebration). "Mardi Gras runs in the family, but it tended to skip generations because my father wasn’t terribly interested in Mardi Gras but I got the bug as a kid.”