Monday, October 03, 2005

Seeing Blue

Flying into Gulfport on a small plane the first thing you notice are bright blue blotches. At first I thought they were an abundance of above ground swimming pools. It didn’t take long to realize that they were actually roofs of houses and buildings covered with blue tarps, and they were everywhere.

Once on the ground I was told that FEMA distributed most of the blue plastic tarps. On this first day I heard all kinds stories and claims about everything from farm animals in trees to casino buildings floating inland so one can’t be sure if FEMA actually supplied the cadre of blue plastic. without digging further.

I’m on this trip with Luke Bates the Comptroller for our state office in Grand Rapids. Sitting around the Grand Rapids and Atlanta airports on the way down I asked Luke what he thought it would be like once we got to Mississippi. We both had our theories, but overall we both hoped that things would be organized and we would be able to keep busy for two weeks.

So what does it actually look like here? Without seeing the area before Katrina, it’s hard to get any perspective on the damage. The area along the coast was devastated the most. Today we drove to a point about ½ mile away from the beach, clearly marked by razor wire and signage stating that only military and property owners could go any further. Looking towards the ocean, it was clear that there was plenty of carnage ahead that we'd never see.

We later drove along a commercial strip where metal pole buildings took the worst hit. One building had the front blown off, along the remaining wall written in spray paint was: “Available, 20,000 sq. ft, storage with partial shade, call 662 832-2378”.

At the end of the day we had a meeting with some other consultants who have been here for a week, and a review of how we are to process the SBA Disaster loan packages for the people we’ll start seeing tomorrow.

Luke and I have been assigned (along with two security people) to nearby Gauthier (French/Southern pronunciation “Go-shay “), staying in a somewhat pimped out RV with AC, and what appears to be decent food. During the day we’ll be working out a branch of Southern Mississippi University located a few steps away, more about that tomorrow.


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