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

Wave from Bush is reward enough for big fan

Posted: Wednesday, August 29 at 04:09 pm CT by

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Donna Armstrong waves to President Bush's motorcade Wednesday in Bay St. Louis. Armstrong, who traveled over ten miles from Diamondhead to catch a glimpse of the president, said she was "tickled" by the sight. Image: J. Brecher / MSNBC.com


BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. – President Bush’s two-year anniversary visit to Katrina’s Ground Zero may have been a carefully scripted photo opportunity designed to keep all but a hand-picked few far away from the nation’s chief executive, but that didn’t stop one of his biggest local fans from giving up a chunk of her day to catch a glimpse of her hero.

“How can people criticize him?” demanded Donna Armstrong of Diamondhead as she stood outside the church compound where Bush was meeting with local mayors and business leaders.

CONTINUED »

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Upbeat ceremony marks two-year anniversary

Posted: Wednesday, August 29 at 11:53 am CT by

WAVELAND, Miss. – In the place they consider heaven on Earth, Hancock County residents gathered in the hellish heat Wednesday morning to mark the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

“It is certainly a joy right now to be worried about sweating and not swimming,” joked Brian McDonald, director of the Mississippi Office for Rebuilding and Renewal. Swimming – for their lives – was precisely what many of the 100 or so citizens who attended the ceremony at the beachfront Veterans’ Memorial in Waveland were doing at that moment in 2005 as Katrina’s flood surge rolled ashore.

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Recovery leaves thousands in the dust

Posted: Wednesday, August 29 at 05:01 am CT by

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- Life has hung Linda Addison out to dry like the torn and twisted pieces of fabric still snagged in the high branches of the oak trees here, two years after they were carried aloft by Katrina’s howling winds.

In a 250-square-foot plain white box amid rows of identical FEMA trailers on a bare gravel lot on the western edge of this rebuilding town, Linda sits and quietly tells her story.

Listen carefully because Linda’s pitiful predicament is shared in one way or another by thousands of hurricane refugees who are still living in FEMA trailers without the resources to regain the small shreds of independence they enjoyed before the storm. While a million volunteers and billions in grant money flow to many residents who owned property before the storm and the booming recovery economy blesses others with new fortunes, Linda and those like her are being left in the dust.

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At home in the house that Katrina built

Posted: Wednesday, August 29 at 04:59 am CT by

WAVELAND, Miss. – It’s still not hard to find houses ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, standing empty in overgrown yards with windows boarded up, shredded blue tarps flapping from their roofs, stark reminders of the deadly 2005 hurricane. And there are photographs everywhere of homes that were destroyed, their debris now trucked away to the landfill.

But out at the end of a one-lane road just northwest of town stands a house that Katrina built. There you will find Bob Fricke, 63, and his wife Mickie, 59, in the middle of the 38 acres where Bob was born and reared after his parents plunked down $1,500 and settled in 1942.

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Construction and deconstruction

Posted: Wednesday, August 29 at 04:58 am CT by

I’ve put off writing something for the second anniversary of Katrina, because I don’t quite know where to begin. We have a lovely home now and lovely neighbors. I’ve become accustomed to the idea of not living in my former neighborhood. At least when I’m busy I don’t think about it as much. I think that has a lot to do with healing around here — if you can stay busy, it makes things so much easier. It gives you something to focus on.

Most everyone I know is in some stage of rebuilding. I feel like we are living in some house flipping or design show. It’s funny to see this rural area embracing such modern trends. I never thought I’d hear my father use the term “cut in” when referring to painting. And I never thought he would have anything on his walls besides paneling! I never thought I’d hear my curmudgeonly uncle debating stains and finishes and chair rails. Stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, deep sinks, ceramic tiles, bi-level counters and bamboo floors are everywhere. But even with all the rebuilding, there are still so many places that haven’t been dealt with yet.

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Bringing back the bees

Posted: Wednesday, August 29 at 04:58 am CT by

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. – Leave it to an artist to come up with one of the most creative contributions to hurricane rebuilding efforts that we’ve seen in these parts.

Kat Fitzpatrick is doing her part to bring back the bees. Well aware of a current global reduction in honey bee populations, the cause of which has scientists baffled, Fitzpatrick also learned that Katrina had wiped out most hives in Hancock County.

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Superstars in the Katrina volunteer trenches

Posted: Tuesday, August 28 at 05:01 am CT by

WAVELAND, Miss. – Phil and Donna Fairchild wanted something other than cruises and bridge games for their golden years.

“When Phil retired three years ago, we thought there had to be a lot more to retirement than playing golf and living on the lake,” says Donna.

They found it here -- living in a 30-foot trailer, working 12 to 15 hours a day, six and seven days a week for an entire year as Hurricane Katrina volunteers.

CONTINUED »

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Broadcaster struggles to stay on air

Posted: Tuesday, August 28 at 05:00 am CT by

WAVELAND, Miss. –- The owner of a radio station who was honored for his heroic efforts to keep the community informed during and after Hurricane Katrina says the tiny operation’s future is less certain now than it was during the storm.

Brice Phillips, who runs the low-power, noncommercial station WQRZ at 103.5 on the FM dial, says he’s running out of money to stay in business. His appeals for funding from FEMA and other agencies have not been successful.

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Healing happens ... yadda, yadda, yadda

Posted: Monday, August 27 at 02:42 pm CT by

As we come up on the two-year anniversary of the storm, I find myself at a bit of a loss for words. It's not so much that I'm healed, or that anything is back to normal. I guess in a way, I am discovering what thousands of people with some dread medical condition have already realized for years: I don't want to let this tragedy define me.

Back in November I caught up my old friend Tim Stanton (the drummer for the band "the UGLISTICK"). Tim and I sort of lost touch after Heather and I moved to New Orleans some 6 years ago, and I finally managed to track him down (through a series of phone calls to mutual friends and a hawklike eye on the local entertainment listings). After the obligatory hugs and greetings that reuniting with a long lost friend requires came the inevitable questions of "How have you been?! What's been happening?!"

How have I been? ... What's been happening? ... Seemingly innocuous questions, but for those of us living through the reconstruction of the Coast, these two questions could take days to answer.

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Sense of optimism takes seed

Posted: Monday, August 27 at 05:03 am CT by

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. – Eddie Favre is still wearing short pants.

Although the sweltering heat in this Gulf Coast town makes his attire a no-brainer in August, the five-term mayor has now worn shorts for 729 days in a row. Like black armbands and yellow ribbons elsewhere, the shorts are Favre’s personal emblem of his commitment to keep working tirelessly until his community, which was caught in the deadly eye wall of Hurricane Katrina two years ago Wednesday, is “back.”

Favre, 53, has never said exactly what he means by “back,” and is still making up his mind whether it’s a dollar-value of rebuilding, tax revenue or a certain post-storm population level. But in dozens of interviews leading up to the two-year anniversary of the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history, Favre and other Hancock County residents made it clear that they are more relaxed and pleased than ever about how far back they have come since the storm killed 55 of their family members and neighbors, washed away thousands of homes and businesses and dramatically changed life here.

CONTINUED »

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ARCHIVES

August 31, 2008 - September 6, 2008
August 24, 2008 - August 30, 2008
March 16, 2008 - March 22, 2008
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February 26, 2006 - March 4, 2006
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January 29, 2006 - February 4, 2006
January 22, 2006 - January 28, 2006
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January 1, 2006 - January 7, 2006
December 25, 2005 - December 31, 2005
December 18, 2005 - December 24, 2005
December 11, 2005 - December 17, 2005
December 4, 2005 - December 10, 2005
November 27, 2005 - December 3, 2005
November 20, 2005 - November 26, 2005
November 13, 2005 - November 19, 2005
November 6, 2005 - November 12, 2005
October 30, 2005 - November 5, 2005
October 23, 2005 - October 29, 2005
October 16, 2005 - October 22, 2005

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