Family law Bay st louis MS

Five Years After Katrina, A Return To Bay St. Louis

Former Bay St. Louis Mayor Edward Favre's family home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. All that remains now is a scarred cement slab, growing a beard of grass and vines. Peter Breslow/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Peter Breslow/NPR

Former Bay St. Louis Mayor Edward Favre's family home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. All that remains now is a scarred cement slab, growing a beard of grass and vines.

Peter Breslow/NPR

New Orleans was famously, treacherously flooded when Hurricane Katrina struck five years ago this weekend. But the eye of the storm didn't hit New Orleans. It struck Bay St. Louis, Miss., a small, proudly roguish old riverboat and resort town along the Gulf Coast, killing 12 people.

Five years ago, when the town opened up after Katrina, producer Peter Breslow and I went to Bay St. Louis. The city's five-term mayor, Edward Favre, cousin to quarterback Brett Favre, was living on the floor of the fire station and drove us down Beach Boulevard.

"This used to be the car bridge, and on the other side of that is the train bridge, " Favre said at the time. "And as you can see, it took everything down off the train bridge except the pilings, in most cases."

Favre says that half of the homes in his city were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. We drove past tumbles of wood and clothes hanging off of trees, and cisterns of broken toilets. Favre knew many of the people who lived in those houses and recounted their names as we drove past.

Returning To Bay St. Louis

Five years later, we're driving along the beach road with now former Mayor Favre, who says a lot of the town has been rebuilt.

"Are we where we would have hoped to have been? No. We still have a long way to go, " he says.

He says other than the fact debris has been removed, it doesn't look a whole lot different that it did five years ago.

There are a handful of handsome new homes along Beach Boulevard that look a bit like praying mantis. They are set on 20-foot-tall cement stilts to comply with new building codes meant to place beach homes above storm surges.

Favre and his family used to live along this boulevard, but they never received an insurance settlement and between new building codes and escalating insurance costs, they couldn't afford to rebuild here and moved into the center of town. What was his family's home is now a scarred cement slab, growing a beard of grass and vines. He stops by a couple of times a week to gaze at the Gulf with his grandchildren.

It changed my view of humanity in those 10 days. We were tested and we came through and we behaved admirably under really bad circumstances and it makes you look at your neighbors in a really different light.

Ellis Anderson

"[I] kind of just sit out front and enjoy the view, and let them munch on their little snowballs they get in the afternoons, " he says.

'We Behaved Admirably'

There is some lingering sensitivity in Bay St. Louis that New Orleans received so much international attention compared to the Mississippi coast.

Bay St. Louis has its own distinct character: a small beachfront town with a casino, three yoga schools, old hippies, summer tourists, displaced Vietnamese fishermen and former New Orleanians, including Ellis Anderson.

Anderson moved here in 1996 and has written a book about her town and the storm called Under Surge, Under Siege.

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