Our Return

to Bay St Louis -

A Blog for Friends and Family


I don't even know where to begin. First of all, thank you so much for your concern, prayers, and keeping us in your thoughts. It's been a rough several days.

September 5, 2005 (One week after Katrina) After spending Sunday night (of Labor Day weekend) in Gulf Breeze, Florida, we made our way to Bay St. Louis on Monday. Evidence of Katrina was seen on I-10, beginning just east of Mobile and then it got progressively worse; trees were downed, billboards knocked over, cars that had run out of fuel parked on the shoulder. Passing Biloxi, we spotted big boats high and dry, in the middle of nowhere. The damage was more severe the further west we headed, and when we got off at Exit 13, Bay St. Louis, the reality hit us like a ton of bricks.

Service stations that we had done business with were totally obliterated.

What used to be strip malls looked like skeletons; their windows had all been blown down and whatever was inside--furniture, office equipment, etc.--was nowhere to be seen. What used to be car lots looked as though a bulldozer had come through and pushed all the cars to one side.


We turned onto Central Avenue and tried to get to our neighborhood, but we had the camper on the truck and couldn't get under the telephone lines that were precariously draped over the road. So we drove around town, trying to scope out a place where we could "set up camp" for a few days. We noticed several tents in the post office parking lot, and that's where we spent Monday night. Families without anything left became our new neighbors, and we shared some of our supplies, like gasoline (a REAL premium item) and cold beer (even more premium!). For this they were so grateful. We would have shared more, like our food, but everyone only took what they absolutely needed. Nothing more.

Several displaced geese meandered around the parking lot, not knowing where to go. No one seemed to know where they came from, or how they got there. As daylight transitioned to dusk and the 6 o'clock curfew loomed, people worked hard to gather and protect what little they had left. Reports of looters abounded and those of us in the post office had an unspoken understanding that it was "all for one and one for all." Once our new neighbors realized that we had a big dog and that we were armed, their tents moved closer to our truck camper.

Sharon, one of our new friends, seemed to be really dialed into not just what supplies were needed and not coming in, but WHO really needed them. Command posts had been set up at the Wal-Mart and K-Mart shopping centers, but if people couldn't get to them either by foot or automobile, they were SOL. Sharon knew of a makeshift relief site down Hwy. 90. She had heard that these poor souls weren't getting ANYthing from the outside, and asked if there was something we could do.

Prior to coming down here, I had talked to a friend in Knoxville, and remembered that she was gathering up a bunch of supplies and heading for Mississippi. I immediately called her on our satellite phone (cell phones weren't working) and asked WHERE in Mississippi was she headed. She answered "Lumberton," which was about 80 miles north of Bay St. Louis. Would she consider coming down with some special supplies for us? Of course, her answer was YES. She would arrive sometime Wednesday

Sharon gave me a list of things the people down the highway desperately needed. Items like deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste, sunscreen, bug repellent, vitamins, diapers, Wet Wipes, tents, sleeping bags, charcoal grills and pots and pan, and the list went on and on, not to mention food and water. I called Shari back with the list and thanked her in advance for anything she could do.

Electricity was not restored yet, so it was pitch black out there on Highway 90, the main road going through Bay St. Louis and Waveway. A curfew of 6 p.m. - daylight was in force. Several times Jim (our dog) would get up and start growling or barking; Dave peered out and saw people "wandering around" with the intention of doing who-knows-what? It was, after all, about 3 a.m. Neither of us slept very well.

Tuesday, September 6. Rumor was that post office was going to be bringing in trailers and try to restore business, so we were asked to move. So today we moved across the street to a church parking lot. But we liked the post office parking lot better; the old oak trees provided the nicest shade and relief from the heat of the day.

Over in our new digs we were able to disconnect our camper from the truck, and now that we had the mobility, we made our way to our neighborhood. Although we already knew that our house no longer existed, it is still a shock to see NOTHING THERE.

before Katrina (view from the street)

after Katrina

Before Katrina (view from the lot across our canal)

after Katrina

Well, the concrete pilings remained, but not much else. And a smelly, yucky muck covered the streets, the lawns, everything. We were surprised to see little damage done to our dock; the pilings and the bulkhead were intact and I think we were missing only 3 or 4 boards. All of the houses at the first half of the street were totally gone; the rest of the houses were severely damaged and absolutely not livable. The lot at the end of the street that we bought earlier this year had someone else's house on it; whose we don't know. The two palm trees whose seeds were blessed by the Pope in 1983 were still standing though, seemingly very healthy.

Our (formerly) vacant lot

Search and rescue teams went from one demolished house to the next, spray painting symbols on the outside indicating that they had been there to inspect, and whether or not they had come upon any survivors. It's a very eerie scene to take in, especially on a hot day when a certain smell permeates the air. All of them were from somewhere else, like North Carolina, Texas, Florida and Georgia, and we thanked them for coming to help out. God knows Mississippi needs it.


Our neighborhood was a wreck. What used to be a street with houses on both sides was completely wiped out.


This has not been bull-dozed ,this is from the storm surge. We heard that sustained winds of 150 miles per hour pummeled Bay St. Louis for at least 10 hours. The storm surge exceeded 30 feet.

Then came the task of locating our trawler and Kate's sailboat. Our friends, Mike and Diana, who also had a home in our neighborhood, had already been down here and told us where to find them, but getting there through the muck was a challenge. One of the search and rescue members asked if he could give us a lift.


We found Miss Kate first; she was sitting high and dry on a lot about 4 canals over. She did not appear to have sustained a lot of damage (at least her windows weren't broken out and her hull seemed to be in one piece), but until the surveyors look her over, who knows?


Discovery, on the other hand, was a different story. She was wedged in between two houses, the cabin on the port side complete demolished and the port side aft pretty torn up.

Wednesday, September 7. Our friends from Knoxville arrived, not only with a trailer-full of supplies, but with the announcement that a television crew was enroute with the sole purpose of focusing on Bay St. Louis. It seems that the media is fixated on New Orleans, Biloxi and Gulfport, but there is little mention of our little town or Waveland. This was the first time I really felt Hope. Not for Dave and me, but for all of the other people left homeless, jobless, and helpless by Hurricane Katrina.

We found the makeshift relief site that Sharon, our friend from the post office parking lot, told us about. Turns out it was a grocery store that had been in business only a few weeks. After the storm hit, the owners, Beverly and John Davis, just opened their doors to their neighbors and let them have whatever they wanted since there was no relief in sight. (The storm hit on Monday; when relief had not shown by Thursday, the police in Bay St. Louis broke into the Winn-Dixie and allowed people to get food and water. Hearing that was so unimaginable! Why wasn't help here???)

Now it's Friday, September 9, and we are in a campground in Robertsdale, Alabama. Dave and I don't really know what we're going to do next. We're just taking things day by day. Right now we're just exhausted; mentally, emotionally and physically. But, all things considered, we're fine. Thank God we have the camper and a reliable vehicle. We feel like we can go anywhere, and yet we don't know WHERE to go. Isn't that an ironic situation for gypsies like us?

We will keep ya'll posted. Thanks to everyone who have offered us a place to stay…had we known it was this easy to spend a week here and a week there, we might not have plunked down the money to buy a house :

Maria & Dave