Editors' note: Leading into the new year, ESPNOutdoors.com will be rehashing 2007, highlighting the good, bad and ugly stories in these three categories: bassmaster, hunting and fishing.
Gulf Coast comes back from Katrina
Most Americans associate Katrina damage with the national disaster that was New Orleans. But a great deal of the deaths and damage in New Orleans followed the failure of the levees built around that below-sea-level city. It was Katrina's backwash that crushed the Crescent City.
"East of the eyewall" is where you don't want to be when a hurricane hits. Winds can be 40 to 50 mph higher in the right front quadrant than they are west of the eyewall, in the left quadrant. Mississippi's coastline was east of Katrina's eyewall, sticking out like a chin for the full force of Katrina's fist.
Highway 90, also named Beach Boulevard, parallels the Gulf Coast here. It's lined with beach and casinos on one side and live oaks and antebellum homes on the other. The high winds and storm surge shoved the casinos to the same side of Highway 90 as the antebellum homes. The President's Casino came to rest on a Holiday Inn Express almost a mile inshore.
Those casinos, reincarnated, have fueled the rebuilding of Biloxi. To hasten recovery, Mississippi changed its laws to allow casinos to be built as far as 800 feet from the shore.
The speed of private development versus the slow-motion of government funding is captured in one Biloxi scene today. On one side of Highway 90, the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, stands in ruins. The museum, which will feature the work of George Ohr, Biloxi's famed "Mad Potter," hadn't opened when Katrina hit. The final insurance settlement was announced this past June, laying the groundwork for its reconstruction.
At one time, Biloxi was known as "The Seafood Capital of the World." In 1910 the canning factories on the Biloxi coast shipped over 15 million cans of oysters, more than any place else in the world, and the fishing is as good as ever.
"We've got a lot of real good fishing," said Kenny Barhanovich, a lifetime Mississippi Gulf Coast charter boat captain. "Big schools of redfish, snapper and king mackerel ball up around here. We couldn't get fuel after Katrina. It took me a month to get my boat out of the river. I had a few calls (for charter trips), but I just told people this is no place to be."
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