Friday, February 08, 2008

The Trip - Remnants of Katrina

As we've driven through the southern parts of Mississippi and Louisiana, we've seen the traces of Hurricane Katrina that still linger. In Biloxi, Mississippi, we looked up an RV Park in our directory and called to make reservations, but they had a recording that said they were wiped out by Katrina and were no longer in business.

All of Louisiana's rest areas along the I-10, from the Mississippi border to Lafayette, are closed. The former Rest Area/Tourist Information center is being rebuilt, but the others are blocked off by cones or barriers, and there's no sign of any buildings, just parking lots.

On the long bridge across Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin, many of the larger trees had branches snapped off, but the smaller trees and branches were intact. It seemed as though Katrina was stronger than the stiff branches that tried to resist, while the branches that could bend with the winds did just that.

And growing beneath the winter-bare trees were small palms. Trees that don't belong.

We knew they weren't supposed to be there, that their seeds had been blown there by Katrina's winds, because all the palms were the same size. There were no mature palm trees to have dropped their seeds. And so, Nature takes her course, reshaping environments, changing habitats, without so much as asking permission from Congress or the eco-extremists.

The man-made changes were more evident in Louisiana than Mississippi. Or maybe we just didn't have as much time to notice the changes around the Biloxi area, since that stretch of Mississippi is under 100 miles wide. But in Louisiana, we saw brand-new and under-construction homes in the middle of old, rural neighborhoods, new homes where the yards were still torn raw from the construction. We guessed that these were the ones that had been beyond repair, and that the neighboring homes had been fixed and reinhabited.

It seemed late--over two years have gone since Katrina brought her destruction--for Louisiana to be still in the midst of rebuilding. I don't remember noticing that much newness in Mississippi. But I suppose that difference could be attributed to the differing attitudes of each state's government in Katrina's aftermath. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour didn't wait for (or waste time blaming) FEMA before he got busy, but Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin seemed to rely on the federal government to fix everything.

Maybe I'm just reading too much into what I've seen along the road, with so much time on my hands and not a lot right now to think about, but the mark Hurricane Katrina left in her wake still speaks volumes.

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