Saturday, January 26, 2008

Slow Regrowth

This week, I had the opportunity to visit once again the Gulf Coast region of Mississippi and the cities of Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pascagoula. It was a short notice trip, but it gave me a chance to see for myself what has been happening since my previous visit there last April.

Sadly, I can't say that I noticed a big change in the landscape, now over two years since Hurricane Katrina. It seems, in the residential areas, that whatever new building and reclamation is pretty well complete, but that's not to say that everything is rebuilt. Far from it. There were far fewer trailers occupying lots, and many lots that had damaged property are now empty, full of trash and weeds and mangled signs. Gone are the handmade signs promising a new and better community. The large wooden cross proclaiming "He has risen, and so shall we" seems a hollow threat. High rebuilding costs, insurance costs, the recent economic downturn and, no doubt, the lingering threat of more hurricanes in the future seems to have reduced the optimism of a year ago to a pragmatic reality.

Gulfport seemed further behind their efforts than Biloxi. I am not familiar with the politics that I am sure are a major factor in rebuilding plans, but if they don't get it together soon, Biloxi will soon move way ahead in terms of business and tourism dollars.

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