I decided to take my kayaking over state lines last week with a trip to paddle Biloxi. Ravaged by Katrina's winds and nearly annihilated by a 30-foot storm surge, Biloxi is still slowly picking up the pieces, instead of pointing fingers of blame and whining about the lack of willing participants in its reconstruction, like its over-publicized neighbor (New Orleans). Biloxi has hardly drawn any national media attention at all over the last 21 months, since its citizens have their shit together and didn't let their city descend into headline-news chaos. I knew I loved the place. Hell, I was born there.
That being said, This was my first foray into the disaster area, to see it up close. Mobile copped it pretty badly from Katrina, but nothing on the scale it reached just over the state line. I set off from what was left of a public marina next to the nearly-rebuilt Hard Rock Casino, which has been in reconstruction for the last two years. I covered 12 miles in four hours, with a northerly wind and pleasant (low 80s) weather.
The chief revenue-generators in Biloxi (and Mississippi for that matter) are the casinos on the coast and along the banks of the Mississippi. Few survived the storm in operable condition. Here's a picture of the remnants of Casino Magic, still in disrepair with only one work crew on-site. The hotel still stands, but the barge that once supported the casino itself was washed off its moorings and has since been broken up for scrap.
The waterfront is coming back to life, as this beautiful schooner with a full complement of tourists attests.
The bridges over the mouth of the Back Bay between Biloxi and Ocean Springs didin't stand a chance, as the surge was high enough to lift the span sections off their piers and drop them into the water. The westbound span of the Highway 90 bridge is about half-rebuilt, and construction has only just begun on a new eastbound span.
Just north of the US90 bridge, the Howard Avenue bridge didn't fare any better. Since its span was only 4 feet above the waterline, it had no chance; this bridge had to be rebuilt after Camille in 1969 and then after Frederic in 1979. Untouched since Katrina, this bridge gives you some idea of what US90 looked like before reconstruction began, and the power of a storm surge with wind and tide to back it up.
Just past this bridge I entered the back bay, where a great deal of damage remains. Abandoned marinas, debris left where the surge deposited it, and another damaged bridge. Shore damage notwithstanding, the shrimp fleet seems to be in pretty good shape, albeit thin on the ground.
Speaking of shrimp boat docks, I wonder when they're going to clean this up:
After this shot, I pressed on another mile past I-110, until I was just north of Keesler AFB before turning around to head back. On the way back, I had another dolphin-run in and more unsuccessful attempts to take pictures. Maybe next time.
On saturday I went on a MBCAKC group paddle to an island in the Tensaw delta with a large cluster of ancient Indian mounds. I'll be writing that up soon. It was a good picture-taking trip.