By Governor Haley Barbour

HURRICANE KATRINA: WE WILL REBUILD

Less than a week ago Katrina changed Mississippi for many years to come. In one day the worst natural disaster in our history struck us a grievous blow, decimating the Gulf Coast and causing severe damage throughout Mississippi, even north of I-20.

Those who have seen the pictures from the Coast realize there is utter destruction far beyond that of Camille, which was until Monday the worst hurricane ever to hit America. From Waveland as far east as Pascagoula, virtually everything on the beach and inland for several blocks (as far back as the railroad all the way across Harrison County) is literally wiped away.

It is a sea of debris with cargo containers strewn around like matchsticks and casinos pushed across Highway 90.

The storm surge, which was unprecedented, caused terrible damage in areas never flooded by Camille. Indeed, many structures that survived Camille intact were obliterated by Katrina.

And this is far more than a calamity for the Coast. There is major damage throughout Pearl River County and in many areas both north and west.

The initial response was to try to save lives on the Coast. Pre-positioned National Guardsmen began helping local authorities find and help trapped and stranded survivors as soon as the storm abated Monday night. That same night a column of state law enforcement officers and several hundred Mississippi National Guard troops were led by Mississippi Department of Transportation clean-up and repair crews who cut their way into Gulfport from Hattiesburg to assist with search and rescue, security and opening roads so the recovery could reach people in need. Since then thousands of relief workers from the Red Cross to utility crews to Coast Guard and out of state National Guard troops have rushed to help.

Of course, they quickly learned the immense power and size of the hurricane had overwhelmed the critical infrastructure of the entire Coast. The electric power system had been crushed; the telecommunications system was smashed; roads and streets were completely out of service; there was no running water. Even four days later, as I write this, communications with and within the Coast area is almost non-existent. The power is still off, as generation, transmission and distribution facilities were all severely damaged or worse.

So those attempting to give assistance, restore power and maintain security must communicate much as people did in the Civil War. This has been a considerable hurdle, but the telecommunications companies are working hard to get towers and facilities back up.

The loss of electrical power, still widespread across the southern half of the state, not just the Coast, means little communication with the public through electronic media. It also results in no air conditioning, traffic signals or water pumping capacity. To make up for lack of electric power, generators are keeping critical facilities open, including hospitals and healthcare institutions, emergency operation centers, police and fire stations, military bases and a myriad of businesses - some of them essential suppliers.

Thus, fuel is a critical commodity but one in short supply. Because offshore production in the Gulf area and refining capacity, such as the 325,000 barrel a day ChevronTexaco refinery in Pascagoula, were curtailed, or put out of commission, fuel supplies are scarce. With the supply tanks at Collins and other storage depots coming back into operation, more electric power is being restored. Federal agencies are providing fuel, such as the Coast Guard beginning on Friday to deliver to hospitals across southeast Mississippi.
So there are serious immediate issues that we are trying to address, and there are many counties north of the Coast where we are trying to increase support and assistance.

We've made a lot of progress, but we still have a way to go. But we'll wrestle down every one of these problems because we must. We are receiving so much help - from first responders in the affected areas and across the state; from federal agencies and our sister states; from volunteer organizations and from individual volunteers. This generous outpouring of help has been both gratifying and humbling.
Soon we will move to new phases of Katrina's aftermath - recovery and then rebuilding. These will be arduous and will take a long time, but we will succeed.

I am confident because I know Mississippi. From the Civil War and Reconstruction through the Great Flood of 1927 to Camille, Mississippians have a long history of coming back from disasters. Each time our State has come back stronger than from the previous episode. We're tough, resilient but caring, loving people. We're literally the most generous and charitable of Americans, but this time our generosity is being matched with great generosity to us from others. The federal government, our sister states and private citizens and companies are overwhelming us with their help. And that's crucial because it will take a joint effort, a magnificent collaboration to rebuild.

But rebuild we will. We will rebuild the Coast bigger and better than ever. We will rebuild a Mississippi that exceeds anything we've ever known . . . a State with more prosperity, more opportunity and more equity for more people than ever in our history.

We'll do it with help from our federal partners, sister states, our neighbors and our own spirit. That spirit prospers in our free society and the market economy, allowing beautiful communities with great prosperity to rebuild, Phoenix-like.

On Friday, as the President and I walked past mounds of debris in a devastated area of Biloxi, I saw hope, optimism and determination in the faces of people who had lost everything but who were ready to rebuild. I told the President, "In these people's faces, I saw a new Biloxi, a new Gulf Coast, a greater Mississippi." Working together, we'll make it happen.


Buddy Bynum
Director of Communications
Office of the Governor
501 N. West St.
Jackson, MS 39201
Office (601) 576-2026
Cell (601) 720-8762
Fax (601) 359-3741

 


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Governor Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139 Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: 601.359.3150 Fax: 601.359.3741
         

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