Katrina: From Recovery to Renaissance (Front Page)
Lesson Learned from Katrina Recovery
It’s been seven years since Hurricane Katrina after which Mississippi then-Gov. Haley Barbour created the state’s Disaster Recovery Division and placed Jon Mabry as its chief operations officer. In that position Mabry administers more than $5 billion in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding earmarked by Congress for recovery projects after Katrina.
Catastrophic disaster recovery planning and execution is a rare event that many professional emergency managers will never experience. Mabry agreed to participate in an interview with Emergency Management magazine to share the state's challenges, successes and what he would do differently in the future.
Question: What was the scale of the disaster impacts that Mississippi had to deal with following Hurricane Katrina?
Answer: There were an estimated 60,000 damaged or destroyed homes in the coastal counties, and this was largely due to the fact that Katrina’s storm surge sent water into places where no one, including FEMA, had ever envisioned water going. So Mississippians first saw that recapturing housing stock was going to be the biggest challenge. Since no one anticipated a surge of this scope, many of those households were not covered by flood insurance, a fact we addressed in our Homeowners Assistance Program.
Our infrastructure was almost completely inoperable along the coast. Key roads and bridges were destroyed. Police stations, fire stations, public works were severely hampered. On the economic side, recovering businesses were left without basic utilities, but even when those utilities were restored the workers were displaced. This destruction, although obviously most acute in the coastal counties, continued well inland as Hurricane Katrina’s winds sustained hurricane strength well over 150 miles inland. Of the 3 million people in our state, about 1 million suffered damages wrought by Hurricane Katrina. One-third of all Mississippians were touched directly by this storm.