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calendar   Thursday - September 01, 2005

The Lost City

For two years, from October of 2001 to October of 2003, I used to wake up every weekday morning and leave my apartment complex on the way to work. The apartment complex was Arbor Station Apartments in Long Beach, Mississippi. The complex sits right on Highway 90 on the beach. I could literally walk out of my apartment, down the main driveway about 100 yards, walk across highway 90 and be in the water. I used my GPS during one of the hurricanes there in 2002 to get my location and height above sea level. It was not encouraging to see the readout showing my ground floor apartment was only 6.3 feet above sea level.

The drive into work was one of the most pleasant “rush-hour” drives I have ever had the pleasure to endure. I worked for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the NASA Stennis Space Center. I would leave my apartment, turn right onto Highway 90 and cruise silently along the four-lane highway never more than thirty feet from the Gulf Of Mexico.

Beautiful islands dotted the ocean about a mile offshore like small emeralds in the distance. On the other side were hundred-year-old homes sitting in laid-back Southern relaxing style among the live oaks, draped with Spanish moss. In the spring and summer, the air was heavily perfumed with the thick scent of magnolia blossoms.

About every mile or two was a marina, off to the left, filled with fishing and shrimping boats of all kinds and sizes. Continuing along Highway 90 the road eventually takes a slow right turn inland and passes over railroad tracks below. Just beyond is the long bridge across St. Louis Bay, a beautiful span with a mid-section that raises and closes to allow boats to pass through into the bay. Off to the right, across the bay sits Diamond Head with some of the most beautiful golf courses I have ever seen (or played on). Sometimes you have to sit and wait while a large yacht or barge passes through. I spent many an afternoon coming home from work just sitting on that bridge daydreaming while fishing boats darted through.

After passing over the bridge I would find myself in Pass Christian, a city that looks like it belongs in the 19th century, which is when most of it was built. Almost without interruption, Pass Chistian blends into the city of Bay St. Louis. Old ante-bellum homes are intersperced with Wal-Mart stores and Holiday Inns. You can almost sense the slowed down pace of life in the very air. Nothing and no one moves very fast around these parts. Life is slow and easy.

The last sign of civilization on down Highway 90 is the city of Waveland. It’s a kind of redneck little town of only about 7,000 population. Juke joints, gun shops and yes, a Wal-Mart, dot the landscape. Hotels like the Hotel Texas and the Hotel Key West, which were built in the early 1900’s, give the little town a persona like no other.

The rest of my morning drive was a boring cruise through woodlands on Highway 607 for another five miles, across I-10, to the Space Center. After a long eight or more hours at my desk maintaining weather data in NOAA’s massive databases, I was ready for the return trip. Every day was neatly bookended by these trips back and forth to work. It is the most pleasant drive you could ever enjoy.

Quoth the Raven, ”Nevermore.”

I just got the shock of my life when I read this news story that just came in over the AP wire. The town of Waveland was literally wiped off the map. There is nothing there. Nada. Zip. It is the Lost City.

WAVELAND, Mississippi (AP)—Hurricane Katrina seemed to take a particular vengeance out on Waveland, Mississippi. The storm virtually wiped Waveland off the map, prompting state officials to say it took a harder hit from the wind and water than any other town along the coast.

Rescue workers there Wednesday found shell-shocked survivors scavenging what they could from homes and businesses that were completely washed away. The air smelled of natural gas, lumber and rotting flesh.

“Total devastation. There’s nothing left,” said Brian Mollere, a resident who was left cut and bruised. Katrina tore his clothes off and he had to dig in the debris for shorts and a T-shirt.

Katrina dragged away nearly every home and business within a half mile of the beach, leaving driveways and walkways to nowhere. The water scattered random reminders of what had been normal, quiet lives: family photos, Barbie dolls, jazz records, whiskey bottles.

The town of 7,000 about 35 miles east of New Orleans has been partially cut off because the U.S. 90 bridge over the Bay of St. Louis was destroyed. There is no power, no phones, no way out—and nowhere to go.

State officials would not confirm a death toll in the town, but Mayor Tommy Longo estimated that at least 50 residents died, The Clarion-Ledger reported. City Hall is gone, with nothing but a knee-high mural of a beach scene still standing.

Mollere had set up camp on the wreckage where his family’s two-story home and jewelry store once stood. A couple of chairs and a sheet of plastic protected him and his dog from the sun and spits of rain.

My friends, words alone cannot express how heartbroken I am at this moment. I knew those people. I worked with them, shopped with them and lived in what used to be a tiny paradise. I am having a great deal of trouble holding back the tears. I’m sorry.


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Posted by The Skipper   United States  on 09/01/2005 at 10:01 AM   
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Not that very many people ever read this far down, but this blog was the creation of Allan Kelly and his friend Vilmar. Vilmar moved on to his own blog some time ago, and Allan ran this place alone until his sudden and unexpected death partway through 2006. We all miss him. A lot. Even though he is gone this site will always still be more than a little bit his. We who are left to carry on the BMEWS tradition owe him a great debt of gratitude, and we hope to be able to pay that back by following his last advice to us all:
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