Hurricane Katrina Forest Recovery

As we work together to tackle the historic challenge that Hurricane Katrina has presented to the forestry communities of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, we hope that this blog will be a valuable resource and tool.

Tuesday, March 28

MSU Releases Storm Surge & Wind Study Results

A team of civil engineering faculty from the Bagley College of Engineering and research faculty from the GeoResources Institute at Mississippi State University (MSU) recently completed a study of coastal storm surge and winds generated from Hurricane Katrina. In addition, building systems and material performance were evaluated from visual inspections of damage. Subsequently, an assessment was made of building codes and their application relative to the conditions imposed on the Gulf Coast and inland Mississippi by Hurricane Katrina.

"The start of hurricane season is only four months away and projects are underway to repair, reconstruct and develop the Gulf Coast area," said Dr. Thomas White, professor and head of civil engineering at MSU. "If homes and buildings are not designed for potential hurricane effects, they will be in jeopardy every hurricane season and represent a serious, continuing liability. In addition to land use planning to mitigate storm surge and flood damage, adoption by local jurisdictions of model building codes like the International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) would greatly reduce wind damage on the coast and else where in the state. Hurricane Katrina is the most recent experience with high, wide spread winds over most of the state."

The study includes an evaluation of wind loads and storm surge. "The wind loads recorded during Katrina compare reasonably well with design wind speeds included in the IBC and IRC," said Dr. Christopher Eamon MSU professor of civil engineering. This means that if homes and buildings were constructed according to minimum requirements of the IBC and IRC we would have experienced much less wind damage to structures located in the path of Katrina. Design wind speeds were exceeded by Katrina in a relatively narrow swath of land in the southeast part of the state. The maximum difference in the measured wind speeds and the design wind speeds found in the IBC and IRC was 30 miles per hour. "It is important that cities and counties have authority to adopt more stringent requirements than a minimum state building code in order to incorporate lessons learned from experiences like Katrina." He added that all of the design flood elevations evaluated in the study were exceeded by Katrina's storm surge.

The survey also includes a structural damage survey conducted along U.S. 90 from Biloxi to Waveland. All cities along this route were surveyed including Waveland, Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulfport and Biloxi. Three general types of construction were surveyed including residential and commercial buildings and selected infrastructure such as bridges. Reinforced concrete and steel commercial structural frames in general preformed well. Light-frame wood structures on the coastline were almost entirely destroyed by the surge. Connections were the weak links in all types of buildings. "Good engineering needs to be part of rebuilding our Gulf Coast," White said. "As part of implementation of the model building codes, design, supervision and inspection of development and construction should involve experienced professional engineers."

The study found that, ideally, all locations in Mississippi should be held to a consistent set of design standards for residential and commercial construction. Although design loads may vary within the standard to account for geographic variations in risk, the goal of the building code is to insure a minimum level of safety. This fundamental goal is impossible without a state building code that establishes these minimum design and construction standards.

For more information on the study, contact White at (662) 325-7185 or

Small Business Administration to Aid Ag-Dependent Businesses

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is making available federal disaster loans to small, non-farm, agriculture-dependent businesses located in the entire State of Mississippi as the result of damages and losses to crops caused by the combined effects of drought, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.

"SBA's disaster declaration was issued as a result of a similar action taken by the Secretary of Agriculture to help farmers recover from damages and losses to crops," said Frank Skaggs, director of SBA Field Operations Center East.

Under this declaration, SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program is available to small, non-farm, agriculture-dependent businesses and small agricultural cooperatives that suffered economic injury as a direct result of the weather's effect on agricultural producers. A business that sells goods/services to agricultural producers may be unable to pay bills and/or meet expenses because of the reduced purchasing power of farmers and ranchers. Examples of eligible businesses are, but not limited to, farm implement dealers, seed and feed stores and spraying and irrigation businesses. Farmers and ranchers are not eligible to apply to SBA, but nurseries are eligible to apply for economic injury caused by drought conditions.

Eligible small businesses may qualify for loans up to $1.5 million. These loans are available at a 4% interest rate with loan terms up to 30 years. The SBA determines eligibility for the program based on the size and type of business and its financial resources. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based upon each applicant's financial condition.

Interested business owners should contact the SBA's National Customer Service Center by calling toll-free 1-800-659-2955 (1-800-877-8339 for the hearing impaired). Business loan applications can also be downloaded from the SBA's Web site at

Completed loan applications must be returned to the SBA no later than September 11, 2006.

Thursday, March 23

Lawmakers Face Building Compromise

Lawmakers are negotiating how homes and businesses should be built in the wake of devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. A point of contention is whether to extend tougher standards statewide or limit them to coastal counties. By Monday, House and Senate negotiators must craft a compromise. Some Gulf Coast residents, however, already have started rebuilding homes and businesses the hurricane damaged.

Builder Ken Ladner and his crew have worked almost non-stop since January to rebuild Vrazel's Fine Food Restaurant across from what remains of the former Grand Casino in Gulfport. Gulfport and Biloxi require the 1997 Southern Building Code. The proposed law would require the newer 2003 International Building Code. "They can't make them retroactive," he said. "When we got the building permit, we were grandfathered in under existing building codes." The codes mandate standards for electrical work, plumbing, fire protection and other aspects of construction. Everything from the type of materials used to the distance between wall studs to roof construction is defined in the codes.

The plan may aid coastal residents rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina destroyed towns in August. Updated codes also are a requirement for homeowners to receive federal grants available in April. Ladner, president of KEL Construction Co. Inc., said more cities will pass the updated code as they prepare to rebuild. "It may take several years to get there," Sen. Mike Chaney, R-Vicksburg, said of a statewide mandate. He is a negotiator on House Bill 1406. "This is like putting sand on the tracks to get the train moving." Earlier this month, Hancock County adopted the International Building Code, which will take effect July 1. Bay St. Louis and Waveland both require the international code.

Harrison and Pearl River counties are considering the newer requirements. Adrain Lumpkin, Pearl River County administrator, said his county was on the way to passing the international code before Katrina hit. The county was approved for a $300,000 grant to hire inspectors and start a building code office. "Katrina will help us get there faster," he said. County, Picayune and Poplarville officials will meet March 28 to make sure all conform to the same building codes, Lumpkin said. Afterward, county supervisors will have to adopt the international code, he said.

Sen. Billy Hewes, R-Gulfport, said the codes impact more than the Coast. Updated requirements improve fire safety and are needed statewide, he said. By knowing the code, fire fighters can tell how long material will burn. "We're focusing on the storm aspect," said Hewes, a negotiator. "What we're not taking into account is the issue of fire safety." Aside from whether to require codes in other counties, another sticking point is establishing a council to adopt standards.

The council, a mixture of the construction industry and political appointees, would meet to update codes every three years. Chaney, a negotiator, said structures used for farming, hunting and socializing at the Neshoba County Fairgrounds will be exempt. Not all counties want the same code statewide.
Lowndes County uses the older Southern Building Code and is considering zoning, said Supervisor Leroy Brooks, who represents the western section. "I don't think the state Legislature needs to be mandating statewide building codes unless they're going to allow flexibility for each county," he said. "Counties are different."

Chaney said the codes vary statewide with houses built to fare better in hurricanes on the coast and earthquakes in the north. Tornado-resistant construction would help across Mississippi. The codes would increase construction costs from 1 percent to 4 percent, he said. That will be on top of the cost of materials during the rebuilding boom, Ladner said. "The requirements will call for stronger buildings," he said. "It's not a bad thing. But there are so many thousands of structures that were destroyed. A lot of people aren't going to be able to afford to rebuild, especially on the beach. It's all going to be commercial."

Full Article

Tuesday, March 21

MDOT Updates on Recovery Efforts

The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) has released an update on the Gulf Coast Transportation recovery efforts in which MDOT was involved the week of March 13-17.

They include the following:
o MDOT is currently pursuing a ferry consultant for assistance in developing a request for proposal for a ferry system. A ferry consultant should be confirmed by early April.

o Two more contracts were awarded for debris removal. Utility Construction of Jackson will be covering Clarke, Jasper, Jones and Wayne counties while TCB Construction of Poplarville will be working with George, Jackson and Stones counties.

o MDOT is starting a new round of project solicitations for the multimodal capital improvement program, which will be a source of funds for water ports, airports, public railways and transit providers.

o MDOT has begun preliminary work on the Biloxi Bay Bridge. MDOT will use in-house forces to begin the process of soil borings, surveying and some demolition in order to expedite bridge reconstruction efforts while waiting the awarding of the construction contract.

o MDOT is collaborating with the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration in projecting emergency fuel needs for the 2006 hurricane season. MDOT is currently submitting emergency fuel requests for coastal first responders should a catastrophic event occur.

o MDOT has offered to advertise on behalf of the City of Bay St. Louis for a design consultant who would consider environmental, right-of-way and plan development in the reconstruction on Beach Boulevard beginning at U.S. 90 to Washington Street. This effort will assist Bay St. Louis in the expedient clean up of Beach Boulevard.

o In a collaborative effort, MDOT and the City of Gulfport have agreed to begin the replacement of the damaged and lost trees and grass in Gulfport along U.S. 90. MDOT and the city will soon begin planting 137 live oak trees along the route.

o MDOT made repairs to I-110 over a two-night period with minimal traffic delays. This project is now complete.

Saturday, March 18

MDOT Begins More Debris Removal

As clean-up continues to be a high priority for Hurricane Katrina recovery, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) is initiating another round of debris removal, according to MDOT district engineer Ricky Lee.

All property owners adjacent to MDOT maintained rights-of-way that are outside the municipalities should place storm debris from around their dwelling before April 3, 2006. Any debris placed on the rights-of-way after that date may or may not be picked up by MDOT's contractors.

MDOT recently signed new debris removal contracts to continue clean-up efforts throughout the state. "We know that debris removal is a massive task for everyone," Lee said. "Debris removal can contain many dangerous items, which can also become a safety hazard. The public is urged to be safety conscious when removing debris."

For more information, contact the MDOT External Affairs Division at (601) 359-7017.

In separate but related items, MDOT has begun the removal of the overhead pedestrian bridge at the Veteran's Retirement Home on U.S. 90. And, on March 15, MDOT officials will begin repair work on the I-110 Bridge.

Thursday, March 16

USDA-NRCS Offers Cost-Share Assistance for Removal of Downed Timber

On December 30, 2005, President George W. Bush signed into law the Defense Appropriations/Emergency Supplemental Act. This Act authorizes funds for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program to assist with the recovery efforts from hurricanes that occurred in 2005.

This legislation expanded NRCS authority to reimburse non-industrial forest landowners for costs associated with downed timber removal. Mississippi NRCS has received the state allocation for landowner assistance.

Funding will focus on risk reduction associated with wildfire. Eligible sites are areas with a high risk for wildfire and associated smoke concerns, such as near urban interface areas, transportation corridors or near structures that would be threatened during a wildfire.

Reimbursement will be provided to landowners based upon 75 percent cost-share not to exceed $150 per acre. Applications are now being accepted through April 7, 2006. Funding for applications received after that date will be contingent upon fund availability.

For more information on this program, please visit your local USDA-NRCS office or visit our website at:

DOWNED Timber Removal

  • Focus on risk reduction associated with wildfire in all Secretary designated counties (all of MS)

  • Priority will be given in areas with a high risk for wildfire and associated smoke concerns near transportation corridors and fire concerns near urban interface areas

  • Recommend salvage operation, if possible

  • Cost-share is authorized for downed timber removal, firebreak construction and prescribed burning to reduce the threat of wildfires

  • Reimbursement will be directly to landowners based upon 75% cost-share not to exceed $150 per acre

  • Work completed prior to application is eligible if criteria is met

  • Assistance under this program may impact participation in other Federal or state cost-share programs

  • Work to be completed within 12 months. (extensions approved on case-by-case basis)

  • Apply at any local NRCS field office.


  • Fire lane construction will comply with the practice standard Firebreak (394). Payment is limited to $0.50 per foot vegetated or $.20 per foot non-vegetated.

  • Downed timber can be removed by cutting, chipping, chopping, burning, or crushing.

  • If downed timber is burned, prescribed burning must be done in compliance with the Mississippi Prescribed Burning Act.

  • Prescribed burning must also comply with practice standard Prescribed Burning (338). Payment is limited to $40 per acre.

  • A Mississippi Certified Prescribed Burner is the only person qualified to burn in Mississippi.

  • A Burning Permit must be issued by the Mississippi Forestry Commission prior to burn.

  • Total cost-share is limited to 75% not to exceed $150 per acre. Receipts are required to determine earnings.

Wednesday, March 15

MDA Publishes Homeowner Action Plan

Mississippi Development Authority has unveiled a housing assistance Web site and has published its Homeowner Assistance Grant Action Plan. On March 9, the MDA posted its plan for administering the Homeowner Assistance Grant Program on the agency's new Web site at

The public is invited to make comments and suggestions electronically via the Web site during a one-week comment period. During the comment period, the MDA will compile and evaluate the submissions, make any necessary adjustments to the plan and submit it to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for final approval.

"The staff at HUD has been very supportive helping MDA design a program that meets the extraordinary needs of Mississippi's Hurricane Katrina victims while complying with federal guidelines," said Terri Hudson, MDA chief financial officer. "We look forward to finalizing our plan with them and getting the application process started."

In addition to the Homeowner Assistance Grant Action Plan, the new Web site has a number of features. These include basic eligibility criteria, a FAQ search, summary of the program guidelines and resource links that may be helpful to anyone needing housing assistance.
After MDA receives final HUD approval, the Web site will have an online appointment request form and application form and contact information.

Friday, March 10

National Forests Announces Land Management Planning

Due to the effects from Hurricane Katrina on the National Forests in Mississippi, efforts were delayed on the Land Management Planning. According to National Forests in Mississippi Forest Supervisor Tony Dixon, “We had to shift emphasis and resources to respond to and begin recovery from the devastation caused by Katrina. We will continue with our plan revision efforts with a focus on those districts that were not heavily impacted by Katrina, primarily the Delta, Holly Springs, Homochitto, and Tombigbee National Forests. We will resume plan revision efforts on the Bienville and De Soto National Forests at the appropriate time.”

Forest Planning is an important part of natural resource management. Significant agency resources are committed to the timely and successful completion of Revised Management plans. The Forest Plan sets the general direction for management of all resources on a national forest, resources such as recreational opportunities, clean water, wildlife, timber, and minerals. The Forest Service faces significant land management issues, with much of the focus on stewardship for the long-term desired future condition of the land.

Wednesday, March 8

Commerce Secretary & Federal Coordinator Powell to Lead Gulf Coast Business Investment Mission

U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez today announced he and Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding Donald Powell will lead a delegation of business leaders to Louisiana and Mississippi on a "Gulf Coast Business Investment Mission" May 4-5 2006 to highlight investment opportunities in the Gulf Coast, including federal GO-Zone tax incentives as part of an effort to promote economic growth and job creation in the region following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"The business community will lead the way in rebuilding the Gulf Coast economy," Gutierrez said. "The Bush administration is committed to encouraging new investment and employment in the region so that businesses can reopen and more people can return to work and communities can be rebuilt better and stronger than before." The Gulf Coast Business Investment Mission will target industry sectors including agricultural processing, chemicals, energy, construction, fisheries, petrochemical, shipbuilding, real estate and financing, capital financing, transportation, manufacturing, retail and travel and tourism.

"I am pleased to be part of this historic mission," said Powell. "The Administration has led trade missions to other countries that have helped American businesses succeed overseas, so it only makes sense to use that same formula to help introduce or reintroduce American businesses to the Gulf Coast region. Rebuilding in the wake of Katrina and Rita can't be done by the Federal government alone - partnerships with the private sector are of the utmost importance and will help drive the economic engine for the long-term recovery of this region."

The mission will include stops in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Biloxi, Mississippi. In each city, participants will meet with key federal, state and local officials and other local decision makers to discuss the business climate and investment opportunities in the Gulf Coast. Participants will also be briefed on incentives made available as a result of President Bush's Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005. In December, the President signed this legislation that creates a Gulf Opportunity Zone with tax relief for businesses and entrepreneurs in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Businesses interested in participating in this investment mission should call the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Business Liaison (202) 482-1360.

Thursday, March 2

Insurance Commisssioner Dale Suspends 180-day Deadlines

Mississippi Commissioner of Insurance George Dale has suspended the 180-day repair deadline provision in personal and commercial property replacement insurance policies as to Hurricane Katrina claims.

Dale also suspended the 180-day deadline for providing notice of intent to make a claim for additional liability on a replacement cost basis for both personal and commercial property policies.

Dale said, “Due to material shortages, the demand placed on contractors and construction workers by Hurricane Katrina, many policyholders who have received claim payments are finding they are unable to repair their property right away. Furthermore, while thousands of insureds have resolved their claims, some insureds are still negotiating with their insurance company. Therefore, they have not been able to even start repairs. The suspension of these deadlines will help both residential and commercial policyholders avoid further harm."

Dale added that while the deadlines have been suspended until further notice, that policyholders who fail to make timely repairs and/or to make a claim or file notice of intent may delay the processing of their claims. The Mississippi Insurance Department urges all policyholders to exercise reasonable diligence in making repairs or providing the required notice of intent in a timely fashion.

Wednesday, March 1

Eastbound Lanes Re-opened on U.S. 90

The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) re-opened the eastbound lanes of U.S. 90 in Harrison County February 27. The lanes had been shut down due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Motorists traveling U.S. 90 between the Veteran's Administration Center and DeBuys Road should be aware that traffic is opened to four lanes but with restrictions. There will be lane closures on the inside lanes both east and westbound in specific areas so that work can continue in the median. Crews will be rerouting traffic as they began re-striping, changing and moving signs and activating traffic signals.

"Any change in driving conditions can cause some initial confusion," said Wayne Brown, southern transportation commissioner. "A little extra caution will help this traffic change to go smoothly and safely."