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

Ambitious plan for new homes

Posted: Wednesday, December 28 at 03:50 pm CT by Mike Stuckey

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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.

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Hospital is off life support

Posted: Wednesday, December 28 at 09:30 am CT by Miguel Llanos

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.

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From FEMA with love: A Christmas homecoming

Posted: Friday, December 23 at 07:51 pm CT by Mike Stuckey

Geralyn Bleau receives a call from her husband, Gil, as he makes his way home for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. Completion of a ramp to Bleau's FEMA trailer happened in time for Gil, who uses a wheelchair, to come home for Christmas from a nursing home where he spent the last few months. Click 'play' to see Gil come home. (J. Brecher / MSNBC.com)

WAVELAND, Miss. -- Big Gil Bleau is home for the holidays and he and his family want you to know one thing for sure: “If it wasn’t for FEMA, I wouldn’t be here.”

In a story that would thaw the coldest heart, Bleau sits today in his wheelchair in a specially outfitted travel trailer at the top of a lovingly constructed ramp in front of his hurricane-wasted home down on Keller Street a bit north of the railroad tracks. And Gil, his wife, Geralyn, and their kids say they owe it all to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, more often the focus of ire in Katrina’s wake.

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Pricey rates for floating hotels

Posted: Thursday, December 22 at 06:37 pm CT by Mike Stuckey

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- A FEMA contract to house Katrina evacuees on cruise ships, roundly blasted as exorbitant government spending, is currently costing U.S. taxpayers substantially more per person than some of its harshest critics estimated -- nearly $250 per person per night, according to figures obtained by MSNBC.com.

At that rate, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would spend more than $175,000 for each family of four that lives for six months aboard one of the three ships provided under the $236 million contract with Carnival Cruise Lines. Room service also is included in that price tag -- three meals a day and snacks.

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The lowdown on a Katrina icon

Posted: Thursday, December 22 at 04:21 pm CT by Brock N. Meeks

Click 'Play' to see and hear Curt Dunstan, a Bechtel engineer, describe the appointments of a FEMA-issued travel trailer.

If pictures of the wholesale devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast are what the American public remembers most about this disaster, then the bright white, 35-foot aluminum breadbox known as a "FEMA trailer" is a close second for Katrina's most iconic image.

These FEMA trailers dot the landscape here like metallic dominos, strewn along the Gulf Coast in patterns as random as the hurricane winds that took the dwellings they now replace. In other areas the trailers sit in neat tight rows, as if aligned by some control freak construction foreman.  Such areas are known as "emergency group"  sites -- or "egg" sites as FEMA personnel call them. They amount to aluminum subdivisions, complete with their own water, sewer and electric hook-ups; they have roads and even centralized laundry facilities in some cases.

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Your tax dollars at work

Posted: Thursday, December 22 at 12:07 am CT by Mike Stuckey

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- The storm that left this region drowning in debt and need also inundated it with some infamous examples of government spending.

From oak-lined Waveland Avenue to the quaint cottages of St. Charles Street in Bay St. Louis, the Katrina-wrought equivalents of the proverbial $600 toilet seat, courtesy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are everywhere to be seen. Behold:

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'Slab' mortgages coming due

Posted: Friday, December 16 at 12:23 am CT by Brock N. Meeks

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- Marco Giardino is on the bubble. Hurricane Katrina left him with $1,525 monthly payments for a $400,000 home that is now little more than a shredded shell. "I'm thinking of walking away from it," he says.

The day before Hurricane Katrina hit, he was sitting on $300,000 in home equity. It was his nest egg; it was his future. "I was sitting pretty," recalls the 55-year-old NASA employee. "I lost all my wealth overnight.

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Unemployment Conundrum

Posted: Tuesday, December 13 at 02:06 am CT by Brock N. Meeks

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- At the Business Assistance Center, two rows of chairs set up in a makeshift waiting area sit empty.  Two employees of the Mississippi Department of Employment Services sit at a folding table that doubles as a desk, in front of a big "Employer's Assistance" sign, with only each other for company.

And yet you can't throw a rock here without hitting a "Help Wanted" sign.  People ready to start rebuilding their homes can't find contractors with enough workers to begin the job.  At the same time, the unemployment rate has hit a staggering 20 percent in an area that before Hurricane Katrina blew through was sitting a statewide low of 5 percent.  The math just doesn't work.

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Still chasing their dream

Posted: Monday, December 12 at 02:13 pm CT by Miguel Llanos

WAVELAND, Miss. -- In a sense, Jose Luis and Maria Martinez created this situation themselves by moving to the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina with their four children, no place to stay and no job guarantee in pursuit of what so many want: The American Dream.

“We do this for our children,” Maria, 39, says of having left Houston in a run-down minivan with the hope that Jose Luis, 49, could cash in on the Katrina work boom that has drawn countless Hispanics to the hardest hit areas.

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Many 'missing' don't want to be found

Posted: Friday, December 9 at 12:45 pm CT by Brock N. Meeks

There are more than 6,600 people still missing as a result of Hurricane Katrina, according to the National Center for Missing Adults, a group working with the Justice Department on the issue.

The missing are out there, somewhere. Alive or dead or … just plain gone with the wind.

"What a perfect time for someone to disappear," says Gary Hargrove, Harrison County coroner and member of an ad hoc task force working to locate the missing from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, of the circumstances surrounding the destruction of Hurricane Katrina.

Hargrove’s task force has winnowed the missing list from the 1,300s down to just 68. "But really, there are only 12 missing," he says quite matter-of-factly. And frankly, it’s only those 12 he’s really concerned about. "The other 56 are child molesters or other types of criminal" that have likely used the chaos wrought by Katrina to slip into the wind, Hargrove said. "These are people that don’t want to be found, aren’t going to be found."

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ARCHIVES

January 16, 2006 - January 22, 2006
January 9, 2006 - January 15, 2006
January 2, 2006 - January 8, 2006
December 26, 2005 - January 1, 2006
December 19, 2005 - December 25, 2005
December 12, 2005 - December 18, 2005
December 5, 2005 - December 11, 2005
November 28, 2005 - December 4, 2005
November 21, 2005 - November 27, 2005
November 14, 2005 - November 20, 2005
November 7, 2005 - November 13, 2005
October 31, 2005 - November 6, 2005
October 24, 2005 - October 30, 2005
October 17, 2005 - October 23, 2005

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