Friday, September 25, 2009

Four Years After Katrina-Some Beautiful Beach Front Homes

Welcome to my post featuring Pass Christian, Mississippi, my hometown, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina four years ago (August 29, 2005). I had moved to Nashville exactly two week prior to Hurricane Katrina hitting Pass Christian. My dad and three siblings were not evacuating. My dad and sister were staying in Pass Christian and my two brothers in their respective homes in Biloxi, MS. In this post I will share my story regarding Hurricane Katrina as well as photos of beautiful beach front homes in The Pass, as Pass Christian is affectionately called. I am a joining Julia’s Hooked on Friday blog party since I am Hooked on Beautiful Beach Front Homes. Click here to check out her party. 2002-28

Hours before Katrina made landfall, I was on the phone with my dad. As my dad was telling me the power was out and explaining the weather conditions, the phone line went dead. This was approximately 7:30 am. I watched the Weather Channel and news channels all day. As details of the mass devastation emerged, I wondered if my dad and siblings had survived. I tried and tried to reach my brothers on their cell phones but was unable. By the grace of God, that evening both brothers got a call through to me. Each only lasted 15 seconds before the call was dropped, but at least I knew they were ok. I spoke with my son who lives in Jackson, Mississippi, which was hit pretty hard by Katrina as well. He was leaving early in the morning to make the three hour drive down to check on his employees and branch offices in Gulfport and Biloxi and planned to drive to Pass Christian to check on some of his fraternal relative’s homes. He was pulling a trailer with supplies and chain saws as he expected the roads to be inpassable. Once on the Mississippi Coast, he ended up having to frequently stop and cut up trees along the way to clear the roads. He was able to find my dad. He could not get a cell signal to let me know until he returned to Jackson late that night. He said my dad’s home had some wind damage but no water. Even though he was just shy of his 81st birthday and there was no power, water, gas, or phone service, my dad elected to stay put at his home. He wanted to protect his property and that of his neighbors and friends. Two of my son’s fraternal relative’s homes were washed away and the third one had been flooded. All of them had evacuated and were safe. My sister was unaccounted for. My dad thought she had stayed with our great aunt. Our great aunt thought she had stayed with a friend. No one knew where she was or if she was ok. I feared the worst. I had two different dreams in which she had died and was floating in the water. Finally, a week later my brother was riding around in one of the army trucks helping people in Pass Christian when he spotted her walking on the road. He was able to let me know which was a great relief.

I spent approximately 20 hours a day for the next two weeks reading and posting comments on the Sun Herald Newspaper website. Because my son was driving back and forth from Jackson, Mississippi to Pass Christian each day, he was able to answer questions regarding which roads were open, the gasoline situation, if any of the towns were under lockdown, etc. My daughter ended up going there to help her relatives look for their belongings. A neighbor of my dad’s was in Memphis and worrying whether or not his home had made it. I answered his post and told him I would find out about his house. I asked my daughter to take photos of his home so I could email them to him. The house next door was heavily damaged and flooded but his appeared to be ok. At the most, he may have had an inch or two of water inside but that could not be determined from the outside. Ends up he had no water inside. To this day he still emails me and expresses his gratitude. Additionally, I was in touch with other residents via email and could relay information or gather information sought by others on the website. I heard from soldiers stationed in Iraq concerned if where they stored their belonging before being deployed had made it through the hurricane. I heard from people trying to find out if their loved ones were alive. In several cases I was able to let them know their loved one was alive because someone I was in touch with had seen them.

My family was looking for my dad’s brother and his wife. I asked in several posts I made if anyone had seen them. A neighbor of theirs replied that the last time he talked to them they were planning to stay home and ride out the storm. Their home was completely gone-washed away. Soon it became apparent that they did not make it.

The post card at the beginning of this post was taken pre-Katrina. The blue building just above the letter S in Pass was the Pass Christian Yacht Club. The harbor had many piers for the shrimp and oyster boats as well as for sailboats. Half of Pass Christian is a peninsula with the Gulf of Mexico out front (the body of water is actually called the Mississippi Sound), the Bay of St. Louis on the western tip, and bayous and the Wolf River to the north. During Katrina, the water from the North, South, and West met, flooding over half of the town. After Katrina, there were only 43 homes that were habitable in Pass Christian. The rest were either washed away, heavily damaged, or flooded.


^Above is a home that was heavily damaged by Katrina but has been restored to the original look. I have always loved the architectural designs of the screened in porches with this particular one being one of my favorite. (Photo September 2009)


^As a child I rode my bicycle past these homes many many times. This particular home was always one of my favorites. It was heavily damaged by Katrina. I am so pleased to see that it has been restored to the original condition including the white fence out front. (Photo September 2009)

Ten weeks after Katrina hit, I visited Pass Christian for the first time since the storm to attend the funeral for my aunt and uncle. They elected to stay in their home due to their failing health; believing it was safe since it withstood Hurricane Camille (1969).  Their logic was if their home survived Camille’s winds of 200 mph, then it would withstand those of Katrina’s at 120 mph.  Unfortunately, Katrina’s storm surge was greater than Camille’s due to it’s size and slow movement. It was that surge that washed their home away with them in it.

For several weeks after Katrina, we held out hope that they had decided to evacuate their home before Katrina hit. After weeks with no word from them, it became evident that they had perished. Then, our thoughts turned to whether or not their bodies would ever be found. Ten weeks after Katrina struck their bodies were identified within days of each other which allowed for a joint funeral. I thought it was fitting that they would end up having a joint funeral since they died together.

Sadly, I returned to Pass Christian this week to attend my other uncle’s funeral. He was a great man who lived a long and productive life. While there, I was pleased to see progress being made in Pass Christian-though there is still a long way to go. Many of the beautiful homes on Scenic Drive that were heavily damaged by Katrina have been rebuilt to their original condition. Some were torn down with a new home built on the lot such as the ones in the two photos below. Quite a few empty lots remain where a beach front home once stood. Perhaps after scrolling through the photos I am sharing you will understand why The Pass occupies a special place in my heart.  Blessings.  …susan

BTW: Lee Bailey’s book Long Weekends has one section that is photographed in Pass Christian. Also, Martha Stewart used some of the front porches in Pass Christian as settings for photos in one of her books. I cannot put my hands on the book but will note the name in a future post. 


^Front porches with French doors and working shutters are often seen in the design of beach front homes in Pass Christian. Above and below are two new homes being built to replace homes that were washed away. (Photos-September 2009)DSC01543


^The home above was damaged during Katrina and fortunately it has been restored to the original condition. I especially love the front porch on this one. (Photo September 2009)


^Most of the beach front homes in Pass Christian are painted white. This home has been a golden yellow for many years. Though heavily damaged by the storm, it has been restored to the original look including the golden yellow color. (Photo September 2009)


^Another one that has been restored to the original condition. Photo September 2009


^Many beach front homes have porches on both levels such as the one shown above. (Photo September 2009)


^A sidewalk runs along Scenic Drive and many of the homes have short white picket fences. I was happy to see that a good number of homes rebuilt these fences. (Photo September 2009)


^This home was heavily damaged but has been restored to the original look. It has always had awning across the front. (Photo September 2009)


^A friend of mine use to live in this home. I remember a bed on the upstairs front porch that hung from the ceiling on chains and would swing with the wind.


^Yet another home with a glorious front porch and the white fence.  (Photo September 2009)


^This is the only restored home that I noticed with a for sale sign. I am not a fan of the stone wall across the front as that is not in keeping with the architectural style of Scenic Drive.  (Photo September 2009)


^Photo taken September 2009.


^Photo taken September 2009


^Though nice looking, this home is a different style for the beach front in Pass Christian. Brick is not usually used nor are three stories.


^Photo taken September 2009

The group of photos below show progress being made. Some photos taken were 10 weeks after Katrina hit and then today. Others were taken in October 2008 and then almost a year later. 

Trinity Episcopal Church

^Trinity Episcopal Church (photo taken 10 weeks after Katrina, November 2005).


^Trinity Episcopal Church (photo taken October 2008)


^Four years plus a few weeks later, Trinity Episcopal Church is under construction. This church was completely destroyed by Hurricane Camille in 1969 and then again by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Notice how high off the ground it is being built this time. (Photo September 2009)

Corner Market St. & Scenic

^This is a photo taken from Highway 90 which runs along the beach looking up Market Street which was one of the main streets that runs North/South. Photo taken 10 weeks after Katrina.


^Believe it or not, this is the same street as seen above except I took the photo at the intersection where the suburban is shown above. Not much has changed in the four years since Katrina hit-with the exception of power lines and telephone poles having been installed. Most the debris seen in the first photo has been removed and what was left of a building has been razed. (Photo September 2009)

PCYC - Forte Seafood standing

^The Pass Christian Harbor (photo taken 10 weeks after Katrina). The yacht club was destroyed as were the piers.


^While visiting Pass Christian this week, there was much rain and scattered thunderstorms which made for less than ideal photographs. In the photo above you can see there has been progress made in the harbor. The piers have been rebuilt and are filled with shrimp and oyster boats as well as sailboats.  The building straight ahead is the Pass Christian Yacht Club, which is the 2nd oldest yacht club in the United States. My great-grandfathers (maternal and paternal) served as commodores.  As a teen, I was a junior sailor and sailed in many races and regattas. To the left is a gas station that has been rebuilt.  (Photo September 2009)

West Beach driveway from St. Louis

^The photo above and below is a what a typical residential street in Pass Christian looked like ten weeks after Katrina hit. Homes had been washed away, trees had been battered by the winds and there is debris everywhere. All of the streets looked alike. It was a bit confusing since there were no street signs nor landmarks to identify on which street I was driving. Beach Vista from St. Louis to Beach

Live Oak Cemetery

^Live Oak Cemetery (photo taken 10 weeks after Katrina)  This cemetery was known for the beautiful live oak trees throughout. My mother is buried there. The trees were heavily damaged and tombstones were turned over. Many of the beautiful crosses on top of the bases were washed off and broken.


^The photo above and below show great improvement to the cemetery. I took these as I drove away after burying my uncle. In the bottom half of the photo is the main street in town that runs East and West. Some parts of it is still not paved. (Photo September 2009)


Beach Vista Pool (!)

^Above is an empty lot where a home once stood. Just to the right of the center of the photo you can see the handrails to the swimming pool steps.  Can you imagine you entire home being washed away with everything in it?   (Photo sent to me by a friend in September 2005)


^Above is Scenic Drive which sits up on about a 15 foot ridge that runs parallel to Highway 90. Highway 90 runs east and west along the white sand beach. Many parts of the road were washed out. The beach front homes were either washed away or heavily damaged. (Photo October 2008)


^Above is the same Scenic Drive which is in the process of being paved four years after Katrina hit and many homes are being rebuilt. (Photo September 2009)


Above photo taken October 2008 and then below this past week.



Above photo October 2008 and then below this week.



Above photo October 2008 and then below this week.




Above October 2008 and then below this week.




Above photo October 2008 and then below this week.




Above photo October 2008 and below this week. This home had water in the lower floor and wind damage but has been restored to its original look.

 DSC01566 DSC01570

^Still under repair in October 2008, I love the floor to ceiling windows. The photo below was taken this week. The shutters and porch furniture make this home so inviting.



^All of the photos of the homes in this post were taken east of the harbor. The one home in the photo above is west of the harbor. It was one of the very few and possibly the only one that survived Katrina, partly because it is built up high. As you can see there are hardly any structures standing in the vicinity of this home.


The photo above and below are of the same house. Above is from the side street with the main part of the house to the left. There is a screened in porch between the two with a set of stairs leading to that porch. The smaller wing in the right side of the photo with handicap access is occupied by the mother. I understand her daughter and her family occupy the main house.


^This is the front view of this home which faces the beach. The wing to the left is the master bedroom. The original home was washed away in the hurricane.

Katrina Facts:

Landfall on August 29, 2005 at noon

Circulating wind speed at landfall 120 mph

Category 3 Hurricane

Eye was 25-30 miles wide, storm was 415 miles wide

Slow movement over water and land at 5-10 mph.

Storm surge 35-40 feet, highest in Pass Christian

Costliest in the U.S. at over $90 billion

Fifth deadliest with 1836 dead and 705 missing

Traveled through the entire state of Mississippi with all 82 counties declared disaster areas.




LAura Casey Interiors said...

Susan, I am so moved by this post. I am so sorry for the losses that your family had from Katrina and also your uncle's passing recently. My husband is form Baton Rouge and his mother is from New Orleans, so this post was very meaningful to me. Thank you for sharing the beautiful architecture and work that the community has done to rebuild.

Shannon said...

I am truly sorry to read about the loss of your family. It breaks my heart to hear such stories and see such devastation. But I am glad that progress is being made in one of the most beautiful places in this country.

Paul Anater said...

Your stories and those photos are heart wrenching. I remember when Katrina formed and took a week to get around us here Florida. During that entire week the wind blew and the rain fell down in sheets. You could tell that whatever was lurking offshore was bad news. I remember clearly the day that it made landfall in Mississippi. I live hundreds of miles from Pass Christian, yet the same storm caused a surge here that washed over the sea walls as it was wiping out the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I never knew that a hurricane could be so big. Whatever inconvenience we experienced was just that, an inconvenience. But it did serve as a potent reminder of how powerful hurricanes are in general and how horrific that one was in particular. After the storms seasons of 2004 and 2005, this Floridian and Gulf Coast resident will never ignore another hurricane warning I know that. Thanks for your story Susan.

Cote de Texas said...

fascinating that you have all these pictures. I still can't believe what happened to Pass Christian. Once we drove from Houston to Seaside and I was so excited to drive through that area after reading so much about it. What a terrible storm. Just terrible. Katrina will always mean utter destruction for all of us always.

Design Esquire said...

I am so sorry for your losses. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post with us.

Annie@A View On Design said...

what a great blog about a terrible tragedy, for so many families, including yours. I'm sorry you had to deal with all that loss, your pictures show that life does go on.

DesignTies said...

Sorry to hear you lost your aunt and uncle in the hurricane :-( And your other uncle this past week :-(

This is a very powerful post. It's sometimes hard to really grasp the devastation that a hurricane causes when you've never experienced one or seen the damage in real life. Your pictures and story really brought us there.... so sad, but hopeful too that people are rebuilding.

The beach front homes are beautiful. I like the yellow one best, because it's bright and happy and stands out from all the white houses. Which are lovely too :-)


studioJudith said...

I often wondered about what has transpired in lovely Pass Christian.
Having grown up in Baton Rouge, I always remember driving through on our way to Florida. Your beautiful post answered so many questions.
The Pass has to have the BEST screen porches in the world!

Amy King said...

My mom sent me a link to your post because she thought I would be interested, and saying I am "interested" is an understatement.

I was a college student in Oklahoma when Katrina hit, and I spent months gathering care items to send to the areas devastated by the storm. Later, I jumped at the opportunity to go to Pass Christian over Spring Break in 2006 to help with the clean up effort.

When I arrived with my boyfriend and some of our friends, I couldn't believe the town was in the shape it was in so many months after the storm.

Our group was stationed in the cemetery during most of the week, and seeing your pictures of it now has made me tear up. I knew we played a very small part in the clean up of the community, but I know we were sent to that cemetery for a reason. It's an important part of the community, and I am thankful that we got to help to restore it to its beauty and tranquility.

Thank you for this post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing! Such devistation and it was so unfortunate that everyone focused on New Orleans when there were areas it worse. So sad. It was nice to see all the pictures of the rebuilt areas though. Gives us hope!

Susan Lang said...

The comments made on this post are deeply appreciated. I love that many of you are familiar with "The Pass" as it is indeed a special little town! Thanks for extending your sympathy to me and my family. ...susan

Velvet and Linen said...

This is a very important post, Susan.
The devastation is really surreal. Thank you for documenting the devastation and extremely slow recovery of this beautiful part of our country. I think that we get so caught up in our own small day to day problems. It's important to keep perspective.


Charles said...

Hi Susan. Charlie DeMetz here. Found your blog while searching for images of houses lost in Katrina. Marcia and I are searching for ideas for the facade of the house we just started rebuilding. We are not returning to W. Scenic but to E. Scenic next door to the house with the green awnings from your pictures. (I may have told you that when we spoke at your Uncle Beadie's funeral.) Anyway, we hope to get many good ideas from your blog and plan on reading your book. Mama has it. Now, back to searching for the "Lost home of Pass Christian"! Wouldn't it be nice to find my house.