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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.

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For a reporter returning to southern Mississippi after four months away, signs of progress are clearly evident. But seven months after Hurricane Katrina flattened much of Bay St. Louis and Waveland, the pace of reconstruction is maddeningly slow and frustrating to many residents.

It will be many years before life returns to normal in these two small cities on the Gulf Coast, but the steady process of rebuilding should mean hundreds of more housing units will be available over the next year.

And while everyone who calls the area home would prefer that the hurricane never happened, many businesses that have been able to open clearly are doing a booming business. Strong lumberyard sales, for example, are one reason Bay St. Louis sales tax revenues have been higher than expected, although overall city income is still down sharply because Casino Magic remains closed. The casino is expected to reopen by the end of 2006 along with some of its restaurants and its 14-story hotel.

Driving along U.S. 90, the main highway connecting Bay St. Louis and Waveland, it is apparent that many businesses, especially smaller ones, have repaired, rebuilt and reopened. The area is still woefully short on grocery stores, although Wal-Mart has expanded its food selection and appears likely to become the area's dominant grocery outlet for the foreseeable future. The only other grocery store is more than 10 miles away in Diamondhead.

While groceries are a bit hard to come by, the restaurant scene has improved dramatically, as two of the most popular sit-down restaurants have reopened on Highway 90 in Bay St. Louis. Rickey's Bar and Grill was formerly located on Colman Avenue in Waveland, which was wiped out by the storm. Trapani's Eatery was on the waterfront in Bay St. Louis. Both specialize in local cuisine with a heavy emphasis on seafood.

The scope of the hurricane's destruction is still astonishing, and many residents complain of a shortage of available workers, even though the roads are crammed with contractor pickup trucks. One major obstacle is a lack of available housing for employees, which means many workers have to commute from Slidell, La., 30 miles away, raising reconstruction costs.

In the most devastated parts of Bay St. Louis and Waveland, the main change over the past four months is that hundreds of lots have been cleared of debris. But in most of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, only a few homes have been rebuilt to the point where they are livable again.

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Yes, some things here on the Mississippi Coast are slowly returning to a semblance of their pre-Katrina selves. The FEMA blue roofs on the houses, though still all around us, are slowly decreasing in number as more and more people settle with their insurance or Get SBA loan money to rebuild or repair their homes. The stacks of trash, trees and destroyed autos in our neighborhoods and on our roadways are being dealt with. The foliage is no longer an ugly dead gray or brown- springtime green, with the vibrant lavenders, pinks, and whites of azaleas in bloom is everywhere, except in the few blocks closest to the beachfront, where the saltwater surge killed most of the greenery. It's still hard to drive down the beach, though, and look at all those desolate concrete slabs, and dead and dying Spanish oaks. I avoid it if at all possible.
I don't know what's going to happen to the residences and businesses that were on the beachfront before Katrina. Will the businesses rebuild, relocate inland or even reopen? I know most of the casinos plan to become land-based but I'm referring to the small businesses and restaurants that used to line Hwy. 90 from Bay St Louis to Ocean Springs... We are years, probably decades away from complete recovery, and I wonder how much the new Mississippi Coast is going to resemble the pre-Katrina Mississippi Coast.

We are a nation of people that want it now. But when half of a coast line has been destroyed, do it now is slow. A lot of people need help. We as a people were not ready to take on this kind damage. Some people will never be happy. Those that lost the most are tring to rebuild. Those that lost the least are the loudest (renters or others). We gave as much help as we could. We here in Texas hepled a lot of people and some of them just want more and more. They need to go and help rebuild.

Interesting to read about the shortage of available housing for the construction workers. Can the government not get more trailers down there? Or maybe each family could 'adopt' a worker. The less stress there is for the workers, the faster and cheaper it will be to re-build. Whatever happens, these people still are in dire need. We cannot turn our back to them. We need to make this right again. Keep up your spirits and your hard work. The country is pulling for you. Really.

That would be a great idea to get trailers down in Mississippi for the contract workers - but they would have to be on someone's property in order for them to have water, electric, and sewage hookups. The trailers themselves are too small to house some families, much less adding a total stranger. But the lack of much needed labor is apparent and frustrating for many individuals. The same is true in New Orleans. You may get two hours a week from a contractor putting up sheetrock...it is very sad.

We returned from Waveland and Bay St Louis on April 1st. We took 40 High School students who "donated" their Spring Break to help the people of these communities. Our hearts broke at the amount of debris and destruction...although we worked hard throughout the week, we left feeling we hadn't made much of an impact...there is so much to do! God Bless these survivors! America is praying for you.

A couple weeks ago my wife and I drove to Mobile, Al to visit our family. It was nice to see the green spring in Mobile.

After seven months, little things are beginning to wear on those of us in New Orleans.

The flood waters were so contaminated that it killed our grass and half of our shrubs.

The closest grocery store is about five miles away.

Trash is still piling up. The city and the FEMA pick it up, but then someone else decides to gut their house and more trash is on the streets. The neutral grounds (what we call medians) are scarred with ruts from trucks and front end loaders.

There hasn't been a good rain for some time. The dust is so bad that my car looks like I have been traveling the dirt roads of my youth in Tennessee.

If you see a hole in the street filled with water, you don't dare drive through. Some of these holes are four by four by eight feet deep. The water is from another broken water or sewer line.

Today I saw a success, the traffic lights have all been repaired between my house and my work. Why is this a success? I don't have twenty-two "four way stop signs" any more. Not bad for seven months and four miles.

Another reality is beginning to sink in. The problems at home are coming to the office and the problems at the office are beginning to go home. Home is not a sanctuary when you work ten hours days and then go home and put up sheet rock or lay tile. Work is not a sanctuary when you need to hire twenty more people in the department and can't. You can't because there is no place for people to live. Motel rooms have gone through the roof. Rental property is very expensive and hard to find.

What about buying a place? Good idea. I have found out that you cannot get a mortgage if the house does not have electricity or heat. If your house flooded, you have to replace all of the electrical parts and pieces that were under water before power can be restored. Where do you find an electrician that doesn't have six months of backlog?

I think what I am trying to explain to everyone out there is that the city of New Orleans is wearing on us. More and more people are just giving up. It is not one thing, it is the sum of the parts.

Marilyn and I will stay. It is close to the kids. Just about anything that we plant in the ground grows. And we both love the deep south. But please forgive us if we are a little down every once in a while.

Thanks for listening.

I am appalled at such a big country like america, they can feed thousands of foreigners in other countries, go to war where they should not be at war but cannot come into a city like New Orleans and at least clean up instead of all the red tape, they are putting peoples lives second to such unimportant things it is sad. New Orleans looks the same way it did the day Katrina hit, their is debris and filth everywhere....

I just spent a week volunteering on three Habitat homes in Beaumont TX, and the lack of housing for workers forced Habitat to put us up in the high school Gym. Every hotel and RV park location is full and more workers are needed to finish the building effort. Many of the local people feel FEMA could be much more helpful by providing temp RV parks for their trailers that could be converted to recreational parks in the future while providing better housing for both the displaced residents as well as temporary workers

There are plenty of empty trailers in Jackson County and to many FEMA inspectors feeding off the taxpayers by randomly driving around (inspecting) and invading the privacy of the tax payers (for the people, by the people) by showing up to inspect during supper time after a hard days work. They act like storm troopers, can't even give you a call to let you know they are coming. Before Katrina I was four years from retairment, I have paid all my dues, now I have more depts than ever and no end in sight until death. Tell me, what's on my mind?

There are thousands of volunteers from every state in the country, now working in BSL and Waveland. Every religious denomination is probably represented. It is very gratifying to see all these people working so hard, especially during Spring Break. Many college students gave up their fun time to go down to the coast and basically do hard manual labor. Housing is a problem for volunteers. There are many "tent cities" set up and some available trailers. Don't know the solution to housing so many volunteers, but many church groups have stepped up, especially the Mormons who have a very large tent city in a state park by the beach. As some of the locals have returned to their houses, they are offering their trailers to volunteers. Go to baystlouis.us, where you will find a site for volunteers, which talks about available housing for volunteers. If you haven't been there, get a group together and take a few days and go on down. It is an experience you will not forget. I guanrantee, you will return. That area touched my heart, the people are awesome and soooo very grateful for what is done for them. God Bless them all.

Jerald Kearney,
Hang in there, man. It's not going to be like this forever. It's easy to let the trials and tribulations of the last 7 months wear on you and it's okay to get a little down from time to time but it's NOT okay to give up or even have that mentality. I'm someone who is living on the Mississippi coast and enduring similar things to most of what you've described. Just know that you and Marilyn are not in this alone, and that things will get better- slow progress is better than no progress.

7 months ago Mississippi didn't have the devistation we do now......anyone listnling.....pray for the children.....please

Hang in there people of the gulf coast. the best is yet to come. it will take time to heel all wounds. we are all praying for you.the progress will be slow but in the end it will work out. we can not stop hurricanes from coming but we can rebuild the houses stronger and try to slow the surge down maybe build house on legs off the coast about a mile i have seen pictures down there. fema was a little slow but hats off for the volunteers and the college students for there time over spring break.thats. what this country needs in a time need. keep your head held hi it will get better. and in the end it will pay off.

Thank you all... for sharing and for everyone that has volunteered, prayed, or that has just listened to us. None of you will never know how just the smallest thing you may have done has touched us, and means the world to us. All we have is each other, and anyone who has ever lost everything knows exactly what I mean. The Gulf Coast is blessed because of each of you. It will be a long time before we get back our material things, including a home. Again, we have each other, but without the volunteers and other concerned persons we would never get close to being a normal community. Thank you... and come visit us, even just to talk. Bless you all.

A week after returning from my church's mission trip to Pearlington, MS and I am having a hard time shaking the feeling that I need to do more. I am better for having met the resilient, warm people in Pearlington. Their strength amazed me. Still, they are weary and need our support. We can not forget them. We can not go about our lives assuming that things are better along the Gulf Coast. Everyday, there are some small improvements, but they are far from better. I walked amongst the best that humanity has to offer during my week in Pearlington...volunteers from across the nation and from abroad, several faiths, people mucking houses, assessing needs, building sheds. Let them be an example to all of us. We all need to get involved. Volunteer, send donations, speak up. Just do not forget.

The tremendous, total devastation along the Mississippi Gulf Coast was caused primarily by Storm Surge. My property, five miles inland at Diamondhead South, had 16' of water over it. 225 homes in my neighborhood no longer exist, they are just bare foundations. The Storm Surge damage extends 20 miles inland. It could happen again this summer.
Storm Surge CAN BE STOPPED. The Bay St. Louis bridge has been totally destroyed. Replace this bridge with a Storm Surge Control Levee, with multiple Storm Gates, closed only during a storm.
This levee would serve as the base for a rebuilt Highway 90, and would be faster, CHEAPER, and easier to build than a reconstituted bridge. More importantly, it would protect the entire Bay St. Louis greater basin from this kind of damage forever. The idea can be expanded to protect the entire Gulf Coast.
I submitted a formal proposal detailing this concept to the Governor's Commission on Rebuilding and Recovery back in November. If you are interested, I need help promoting the concept.
Without these SSCL's, recovery in the area is going to agonizingly slow. MANY people will not rebuild with this threat still present. Think what would happen to the economy of the area if this Bay St. Louis SSCL were built.

My name is Leslie and I live in Binghamton NY. I'm disabled, so am unable to get down to the Gulf Coast, but have found ample opportunites to help with the recovery effort.

Please know you are not forgotten. Logistics suck in such devestation, and then the red tape makes life even worse. But progress is being made, and good things are happening. You can't measure progress by days or even weeks - but months and years. I'm sorry for this, but taken in the right perspective, it helps with the depression. Please hang in there.

Volunteers have ample places to stay. It's the paid personnel that have no where to go. And with gas prices going further higher into record territory, the gouging will only get worse.


A few weeks ago,I visited New Orleans for the first time since hurricane Katrina hit. My best friend and her husband live in Ama, La. just outside New Orleans and received very little damage to their home. They were very lucky. I am so disgusted with the way this disaster was and is being handled. Some of these people have lost everything, and what is our government doing for them? If this had happened to a foreign country, so much more would have been already done. It is time we take care of our own before helping other countries!!!!
Our government officials, and some of our celebrities need to focus on needs in their own country for a change!!!

First and formost, thank you to all who have came into the South Mississippi area to help so many in diferent ways. YOUR Touch will forever leave an IMPACT on our hearts. We, i think, are nearing 8 months since Katrina, STILL I cry daily over the small effects she left on our home,much less the even greater effects to our neighbors fruther south. FEMA has done and cannot do ANYTHING financially for us as we are lviing in HIs parents home (They are both deceased) and cannot afford to go into probate to get home in our names. Our roof still needs replacing and I have found a group that will do the labor free IF we buy the supplies, I am disabled and to buy the supplies we have two options, give up my medicine and stop eating. Guess time and government is not on our side but at least we will always have HOPE and GOD. THANK YOU again to all who came and helped...... your time is greatly appreciated. May GODs face always shine down upon you!

May God Bless America!
I am reading these stories, amazed at the positive attitudes, standing in awe at the incredible tales of selfless sacrifice and have to ask myself, where are the self serving politicians? I am not pointing at democrats, republicans or ???. I am asking everyone of the self serving "public figures" how they sleep at night. How do we justify spending billions, yea it's billions of dollars to fight a war for people that are oblivious to our aide, yet let our own family suffer these hardships? You know, I am a pretty smart guy and math is a pretty exact science. I guess I would just like one of our super intellectual, super intelligent politicians explain in laymans terms why it makes sense to leave hundreds of thousands of our family members in dire straits, yet funnel billions of dollars, of our tax dollars (yes, you have it right, our tax dollars, that we and the poor gulf coast residents have paid) to unknowing, unwanting and unapprecative strangers in foriegn lands? And for the record, this is not a political statement, this is a universal statement. Let's forget about political agendas, maybe this is God's way of telling all of the politicians it is time to take care of the family. Just as God sacrificed his son for us, many families in the gulf coast sacrificed their son's, daughters, fathers, mothers, greandmothers and grandfathers. Why do so many self serving politicians want to disregard these sacrifices for political and self serving agendas? This country was founded on basic freedoms, a Love of God and respect for family. Maybe we need to send our "great lawmakers" to stand on the front lines of sensless wars and let our strong men and women that are laying down their lives come home and engage in aiding their brothers and sisters. Of course, the politicans wouldn't stand for that because they would miss out on all of their "hard earned privledges" Again, God Bless America, let us honor all of the hard working heroes on our shores. May the Peace of God be with you all.

Although I sincerely sympathize with all the pain, suffering, aggravation that the people of New Orleans are going through, I, who own a house and live in Miami, FL still don’t have my roof replaced as a result of Hurricane Wilma. I got the blue tarp put up through FEMA, which is now all torn up, and when it rains, I’m getting more rain in my house. There are not enough roofers or materials, and when I get one of the companies to come out and give me an estimate, it is outrageous. There is no way I have the money to fix my roof and hurricane season is coming again. My homeowner’s insurance company paid all they are going to pay, so now what?

Thank you, Brad of Colorado Springs. You have said it all. I am too tired and weary to write much anymore. After my recent trip #3 to Bay-Waveland, although I saw some progess, my heart still aches for all who have lost so much and for for the loss of my childhood towns of Bay St. Louis and New Orleans. I worry for my heartsick family members and old friends as well as every soul who was victimized by our government and big insurance companies. But I am so very thankful to all who have helped and continue to help in the relief effort. The devastation is much too great for the people of such broken towns to recover and rebuild without the help of "true" Americans.

with billions and billions of dollars being sent to the uneccsary war in iraq should and could havw well spend to help these people in the hurricane torn states, but no that jerk from the white house could care less about it but he could only care about iraq !!!!!!!

yes "GOD BLESS AMERICA"...thank you Brad...it's truly sad to see so much American tax dollars going to nations who's people would like to kill all of us...and then they get pissed off if we stop sending money to support their terrorist plots...let m' starve...feed and house our own!!!!

In four days, it will be eight months after Katrina. But she's still here, you see her everywhere. What is wrong with our country when every other country's citizens are so much more important than our own? I am tired of paying to rebuild Iraq, when everything we build is blown up anyway. If they want democracy, let them fight for it, the same as we did. I am tired of hearing about poor illegal aliens, when some of our own citizens are still in tents on the Coast. Let Mexico take care of its own. We can't keep pretending that we can take care of the world when we can't even take care of our own.

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