Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, graduate student Ashley Norwood asked Gulf Coast natives at the University of Mississippi, "What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear Hurricane Katrina?"
By the estimation of many observers, it was the ineptitude primarily of top federal government officials that exacerbated the damage Mother Nature wrought.
Stories are still trickling in from major damage zones across the south. Disturbing tales of personal failures and the greater breakdown of government in the face of unconscionable disaster roll in with the grim faces of the haggard, the beaten—and the progressively more faithless.
Many immigrant workers labored in the Gulf Coast's thriving hospitality industry before the wind and water of Hurricane Katrina reduced the industry to matchsticks and filthy shreds of insulation. Three kinds of workers made up the majority of production: native-born, H2B workers (hired directly through the Labor Department with labor certification) and those contracted out—housekeepers, mostly undocumented.
Three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, state Attorney General Jim Hood unleashed a storm of his own. Hood announced a Sept. 15 civil action against some members of the insurance industry last week, declaring that provisions excluding flood damage from the policies of hurricane victims are void and unenforceable.
Attorney General Jim Hood attacked State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.'s decision last week to suspend new home-owners and commercial insurance policies in Mississippi. Hood said the national insurance company was essentially holding policies for ransom in order to influence legislators and judges.
State Attorney General Jim Hood said he would be willing to settle a multi-million dollar lawsuit against insurance companies like State Farm, Allstate, Nationwide, Farm Bureau and USAA if they would come to the table, but blamed the companies for sticking to the courts and delaying a judgment.
Thanks to Gov. Haley Barbour, federal Hurricane Katrina recovery money is benefiting the rich on the Mississippi Gulf Coast more than the poor, advocates for low- and moderate-income housing say. "We're finding that federal disbursements are not balanced among high- and low-income people," said Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP.
Hurricane Katrina was a nasty surprise for Mississippi Gulf Coast resident Mike Perronne when it slammed into Mississippi Aug. 29, 2005. Perronne left his Diamondhead, Miss., home that Sunday before the storm expecting the same serious but relatively moderate storm that had rattled Florida. His wife, Barbara, packed their photographs into their car while Mike stowed his valuable carpentry tools in the home elevator and sent it up to the second floor to protect them from water damage. Their $632,000 home got more than wet, however.
Barbour's confidence going into his re-election campaign is formidable. But the former Washington lobbyist and former chairman of the Republican National Committee may not be such a "former" lobbyist after all, critics are charging, and he may be using his influence to benefit lobbying clients.
Gov. Haley Barbour's niece continues to be the object of federal scrutiny over Hurricane Katrina contracts. Last Thursday, FBI agents raided the Mississippi office of Alcatec LLC, owned by Rosemary Barbour. Rosemary Barbour is married to Hinds County Superintendent Charles Barbour, who is Haley Barbour's nephew.
Mississippi Secretary of State Mike Chaney is disputing that Attorney General Jim Hood does not deserve credit for the recent State Farm settlement with Mississippi. Hood announced last week that his office had settled a breach of contract suit with the insurance giant, which had agreed to pay at least $74 million more to policyholders who had fallen victim to Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.
Recent Environmental Protection Agency testing of FEMA trailers reveals higher average levels of formaldehyde than was originally found by Sierra Club testing last year. EPA testing showed unventilated trailers were 12 times the EPA limit, and that even if the trailers were fully ventilated, toxic levels in the trailers would still be three times the EPA limits.
The Mississippi Conference of the NAACP and the Gulf Coast Fair Housing Center are suing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for allowing Gov. Haley Barbour to divert nearly $600 million in federal funding away from affordable housing recovery after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and into a pet port project that Congress had refused to fund earlier.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency asked U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt for immunity from lawsuits over what plaintiffs' lawyers and the Sierra Club called "hazardous levels" of formaldehyde in government-issued trailers. Engelhardt is presiding over a lawsuit against FEMA. Plaintiffs claim the government knew about the dangerous toxicity of plywood used in trailer construction but continued to allow hurricane victims to inhabit the structures, despite independent toxicology tests revealing five times the tolerable amount of formaldehyde in the structures.
Recent Environmental Protection Agency testing of FEMA trailers reveals higher average levels of formaldehyde than was originally found by Sierra Club testing last year. EPA testing showed unventilated trailers were 12 times the EPA limit of the dangerous preservative, and that even if the trailers were fully ventilated toxic levels in the trailers would still be three times the limit of EPA-approved levels.
Testimony of Governor Haley Barbour to U. S. Senate Committee on Appropriations
Thank you for this opportunity to join you today to discuss the worst natural disaster in our nation's history, Hurricane Katrina. First, we in Mississippi greatly need and genuinely appreciate the generous Katrina appropriations package you passed and the President signed in December. Thank you.
Under fire for diverting federal funds away from low- and middle-income housing for Katrina survivors, Gov. Haley Barbour today announced a new housing plan for public-sector employees on the Gulf Coast. Per a verbatim statement from his office:
The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has confirmed that FEMA favored Mississippi over Louisiana after Katrina, concurring with the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general who criticized FEMA for awarding "the vast majority of the available funds (about 71 percent) to one project in one state." Associated Press:
The Associated Press is reporting on staggering waste and loss of funds due to no-bid and fraudulent contracts, especially to Republican supporters, after Katrina, as well as how few minority-owned firms got contracts due to Bush's initial waiver of contracting requirements:
Here's a story we ran in Oct. 7, 2004, questioning whether federal policy and budget changes—and homeland security concerns—are trumping protection from natural diasters. We're pulling it back to the top of the site due to Hurricane Katrina.
Sen. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, successfully added an amendment to a bill by voice vote yesterday that continues the state's annual $20 million payment to the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association Reinsurance Assistance Fund, also called the wind pool. The measure passed the Senate unanimously, reports The Sun Herald and is on its way to the House.
"They said I needed to get out, and that's what I did," said Tony Porter, who says he owned a photo and camera repair shop not too far off the northeast section of Magazine Street in New Orleans. Porter, who was passing through Jackson on the way to a friend's house in Memphis, speaks of his small, young business in the past tense as he sits at a Phillips 66 gas station in North Jackson.
<i>This story appeared five years ago in the days after Hurricane Katrina as many Gulf Coast residents sat waiting for help</i>
In Waveland, Miss., the little town that arguably received the worst punishment Katrina could mete out, those credited with the swiftest response are not disaster-relief groups or government agencies, but a bunch of hippies and a rock band.