Waveland: 5 years after Katrina - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Waveland: 5 years after Katrina

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By Howard Ballou  - bio | email | twitter

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Hurricane Katrina devastated so much of the gulf coast but there is one Mississippi city the mighty storm literally wiped off the map. We went back to Waveland to see what progress, if any, has been made in the five years since Katrina. 

The city of Waveland is still alive, but how well it is depends on who you ask. 

James McPherson, who has lived here since 2001 said, "I think it can be a whole lot faster if you ask me," referring to the progress the city has made since Katrina. 

That sentiment is shared by hardware store owner, David Hubbard. He says he can't understand why neighboring Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian already have new infrastructure. 

Hubbard said, "We haven't got the first building in Waveland yet, you know, no fire department, no police department." 

It's pretty much the same story all along North Beach Boulevard in Waveland; empty lots, very little residential new construction going on and most of the folks here point to one factor and that is the high cost of insurance.

Mayor Tommy Longo said, "The mortgages and business loans they would have to repay, their insurance premiums would be higher than that and so it's a real difficult hurdle for them to overcome." 

But Mayor Longo says there is significant progress in Waveland's recovery considering what the city lost to Hurricane Katrina. 

He said, "We lost 95 percent of our residential structures,100 percent of our commercial; 100 percent of our city buildings, 100 percent of our equipment; everything was gone." 

Longo continued, "Everything had to be done from scratch and when you stand and look in a 360, everything you see is new and so we've come a long, long way." 

Mayor Longo points to construction of a new police department, fire department and a grant to build this business incubator in what was once downtown Waveland. 

And, says the mayor, "There are some silver linings to this thing. We have all state of the art schools. We have all state of the art libraries, all of which, everything had to be rebuilt." 

The mayor admits the BP oil spill couldn't have come at a worse time. 

Longo said, "It dealt a huge blow to our economy whether it was with the fisheries, tourism and the re-building of structures in our community." 

Before Katrina, Waveland's population was about 7,700. Three-thousand people live here now. Chief James Varnell says there has been a slight spike in crime. 

He said, "Different kinds of crime, yes, we've seen a big increase in domestic problems and that's natural." 

Despite the seemingly endless hurdles in front of their city, Mayor Longo and Chief Varnell, both Waveland natives, remain optimistic about the future of this Mississippi gulf coast town.

Mayor Longo said, "We got up. We dusted ourselves off every day and we went to work and every day we ended up a little better than we started and no mayor could be more proud of his people than what I am."

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