Ten years after Katrina’s wrath, Biloxi is a patchwork of hope and recovery

30 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

10 Years After Hurricane Katrina: Have Weather Forecasts Improved?.

And though meteorologists knew then it would slam New Orleans with levee-toppling intensity, today’s weather forecasters are even better equipped to give notice of a storm’s coming havoc. LOUIS, Miss. (AP) — The 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall on the Mississippi coast will be marked by solemn church bells in the morning and rollicking music in the evening.—Scattered applause greeted Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich in a newly constructed stadium as he threw the ceremonial first pitch for the city’s minor-league baseball team, the Shuckers. Overall, meteorologists have a much better sense of where hurricanes will go and how strong they will be than they did before Hurricane Katrina, said Chris Davis, the associate director of the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

The $36 million MGM Park, which opened in June near the waterfront and several casinos, is the boldest attempt by city officials to show that the Mississippi Gulf Coast is revitalizing after a series of misfortunes. That’s because of a host of factors, from more powerful computers, to improved global weather models, to better atmospheric data from satellites, Davis said. [Aftermath of a Storm: Images from Hurricane Katrina] Scientists have improved the lead-time for cyclones by about 12 hours. Bush and Bill Clinton planned visits to New Orleans to mark the city’s resurgence from those floods that drowned 80% of the city, and although entrepreneurs have built up the city and economy, the potential of another storm like Katrina still threatens the Gulf Coast’s future. Since Hurricane Katrina hit a decade ago, Biloxi’s population has dropped 9.4% to 44,984 and many houses remain vacant. “People all around the country who moved away, they’re looking for an excuse to come back, to move back home,” Mr. The storm roared ashore clocking winds of more than 120 miles per hour, pushing a 28-foot wall of water that obliterated everything in its path, from antebellum homes to apartments, schools, and libraries.

The tropical weather outlook, which describes weather fronts moving toward the United States, can now look five days ahead, rather than three as it could in 2005. John and Trombone Shorty were the headline acts for “A Concert for the Coast.” Economic recovery is evident where glitzy casinos were rebuilt and condominium towers rose. In addition, worried coastal inhabitants can now use the experimental Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map to see where and how high storm surges or floodwaters are likely to get.

Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato and Pharrell Williams top the list of announced performers, and Kanye West will receive the career-honoring Video Vanguard Award. For instance, if meteorologists had to predict Hurricane Katrina’s likely path today, they would have provided a clearer sense of which areas would receive the brunt of the storm. In addition, residential and commercial development has become costlier due to higher insurance rates and new federal building codes intended to better protect structures along the coastline, economists and officials say. Nearly 20% of Biloxi housing units were vacant in 2010, up from 11.4% in 2000, according to census data. “My daughter thinks it’s common to drive down Highway 90 and see slabs,” said Joy Yates, 47 years old, who has worked as an assistant for Biloxi’s county coroner for 18 years and helped collect bodies in the days after Katrina.

That weather model has greatly improved, thanks to better global measurements of satellite data. (Satellites collect data on how much radiation is absorbed and emitted by the Earth — information that scientists use to infer atmospheric temperature, water vapor, carbon dioxide content and other factors that can alter regional winds, Davis said). Of her 12-year-old daughter, she says, “She’ll never know the Gulf Coast I knew.” Before Katrina, Biloxi appeared on the cusp of becoming a major gambling hub, a smaller version of Las Vegas or Atlantic City, N.J., with nine casinos and other tourist attractions including beaches, recreational fishing and golfing. The general rule of thumb is that forecasts improve by about a day per decade, meaning that meteorologists can predict the track of a hurricane one day further into the future after 10 years of weather improvements, Davis said. Tens of thousands of attendees at the Burning Man festival in Black Rock Desert, Nev., will immerse themselves in nudity, DIY art and an anything-goes attitude, starting Sunday. These planes have Doppler radars in the tail and can fly in and around storms for hours, taking the needed measurements to predict intensity. [In the Eye of the Storm: NASA’s Hurricane Hunters] Yet, intensity predictions haven’t improved as much as track forecasts, he said.

The experience is cherished as a week free from the high-tech shackles of modern life, or what some attendees term the “Default World.” Burning Man participants have created a temporary city dedicated to creating its own culture each year since 1986. The total civilian labor force along the state’s Gulf Coast, from Gulfport to Pascagoula, is down 4.9% from its level in August 2005, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On some properties, a chimney or staircase tells the story of what was once there, while others hold no clues beyond the concrete slab Katrina left behind. That’s in part because meteorologists still don’t have the ability to measure with great accuracy the details that affect storm intensity, such as the moisture profile coming into the storm, or the vertical wind shear (the variation in horizontal wind with height), Davis added. “The moisture from the hurricane comes from the ocean, but exactly how it’s transferred is not completely understood,” Davis said. Major employers include tourism-related companies, military bases such as Keesler Air Force Base, which has faced recent cutbacks, and the seafood industry, challenged by the 2010 oil spill and competition from imports.

Getting more data would require flying closer to the areas where storms can form, but flying in winds of greater than 50 to 60 mph (80 to 100 km/h) is basically impossible, he added. In the fiscal year ended September 2013, tax on gambling revenue represented nearly 36% of general fund revenue, the largest individual contributor, according to a city budget document.

Some say they will attend the events to show their appreciation for the volunteers who came to their aid, while others say the memories are still too fresh, too raw. Biloxi saw a big drop in casino revenue the year after Katrina, then a surge the following year, helped by the influx of relief and construction workers. At 68, he could be the grandfather to most of the young people here tonight, but his enthusiasm for his new home is infectious – so much so that he accidentally sold his girlfriend on the idea of moving back to the last place he thought he would ever want to return to. Can we just go somewhere and let this place rebuild somehow, someway?” But the 42 year-old, who owns Smash Clothing in Biloxi’s Edgewater Mall, decided to stay, “to have stability for my family and myself.” Adrienne C. People are building, and they’re coming back.” A few miles away, in Pass Christian, Thomas and Mary Robinson are marking a quieter Katrina anniversary, sitting on their front porch and enjoying an unseasonably cool breeze.

They raised four children here in the shadow of the Gulf of Mexico, but emotions have taken a toll on them as well. “We had seen it on the news and knew we didn’t have nothing,” Ms. He keeps a wary eye on the Gulf, ready to carry his childhood sweetheart to safety at the slightest inclination that a tropical system is headed their way. So she took a job as a counselor for Project Recovery – which forced her out of her comfort zone and straight into the heart of more suffering than she had ever seen.

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