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.

Thursday, November 30

“The First Great Children’s Book About Katrina”

“The first great children’s book about Katrina” …an epic tale of Mullet, Heroes & Hurricanes
Former New Orleans resident and commercial fisherman Timothy A. Weeks is bringing his new children’s book about heartbreak and perseverance to Mississippi. “Ol’ Middler Saves the Day (A Mullet Buddy Homecoming)” is a story of loyalty, loss, the storm of the century, and how “a hero was born from a small, muddy bayou that fancy fish scorned.”

This ‘Seaquel’ to Weeks’ acclaimed first book, “The Wise Mullet of Cook Bayou,” finds Ol’ Middler embarking on a harrowing journey along the Gulf Coast to find his long lost mullet buddy Goldie, who has traveled to the Mississippi Sound with his mullet sweetheart Silver. Ol’ Middler’s search takes him into the epicenter of a terrible hurricane slamming into the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Ol’ Midder heroically rescues his heartbroken friend Goldie, who has lost his precious Silver in the storm. Following a suspenseful escape from flooded New Orleans, Goldie is inspired by the hurricane rebuilding efforts of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and decides: “If people could rebuild, then surely a mullet could too.” After the two mullet buddies return safely to their bayou home, Goldie concludes that “nothing is more wondrous than an ever loyal friend.”

“Katrina was a traumatic event for the Gulf Coast, as epical as the Civil War,” says Weeks. “Nature gave Mississippi its worst, and folks responded with their best. In my tale I sought to render the tragedy and heroism in a manner that children could fathom.”

Illustrated with a fascinating montage of painting and landmark photos of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Weeks’ mother — Miss Jeanne — this story of mullet, heroes, and hurricanes is one of the most unique and poignant children’s books in recent years. Its release has prompted a number of bookstore owners and educators to call it “the first great children’s book on Katrina.”

Tuesday, November 28

SBA Offering Loans in Wake of Storms

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) low-interest disaster loans will be made to Mississippi residents affected by severe storms and flooding that occurred November 15-16, 2006.

The SBA took this action following a November 16 letter from Gov. Haley Barbour requesting a disaster declaration by the SBA. The declaration covers Greene, Jones and Lamar counties and neighboring counties of Covington, Forrest, George, Jasper, Jefferson Davis, Marion, Pearl River, Perry, Smith and Wayne. It also includes Mobile and Washington counties in Alabama.

Frank Skaggs, director of the SBA's Disaster Field Operations Center East said, "Loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property. SBA customer service representatives will be on hand At Disaster Loan Outreach Centers to issue loan applications, answer questions about SBA's disaster loan program, explain the application process and help individuals complete their applications."
The centers are located in the Sand Hill Community Center in Sand Hill, Equal Opportunity Commission Office in Laurel and Sumrall City Hall in Sumrall.

Businesses of any size and private non-profit organizations may borrow up to $1.5 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets. The SBA can also lend additional funds to help with the cost of making improvements that protect, prevent or minimize the same type of disaster damage from occurring in the future.

Individuals and businesses unable to visit the SBA in person may obtain information and loan applications by calling toll-free 1-800-659-2955. Hearing impaired individuals may call 1-800-877-8339.

Monday, November 27

Before, After and Now: Full-time Potter Rebuilds His Life's Passion

Brian Nettles has been a full-time potter for a decade. He's had his Bell's Ferry Road studio for about that long, and his own local art show at the studio for the last eight years. He was the studio director for the Ohr O-Keefe Museum of Art, and lived, for the last three years, in the Pass Christian home he built by hand.

Hurricane Katrina ripped Nettles' high-profile job from him just as quickly as it ripped his house in half. His studio was almost completely submerged and filled with muck. He soon put his life's passion on hold and was forced to take any job he could find to make ends meet. He even contemplated giving up pottery altogether and getting a contractor's license.

In February, however, Nettles received a call from Jerry Wagner of Pennsylvania. Wagner had heard of the plight of South Mississippi potters in the wake of the storm and said he was willing to donate, through his business, a $40,000 gas-fired kiln to Nettles and other area potters.

"I kinda thought the guy was crazy and blew it off," Nettles said. "I didn't believe him, but sure enough, he came down a few months later. He didn't just send it down, he actually came down and hooked it up. It was pretty amazing. I have about five or six other potters that are coming out and using it. It's the least I could do, I know other people that need help, so we just opened it up for everybody that lost their kilns."

Since the kiln was delivered in May, Nettles said his desire to create has been rekindled. His house has been reattached, and he's working on it as he can. His studio has been rebuilt, and he's hosting his annual art show and sale this weekend for the first time since Katrina. Nettles also is working the art festival circuit once again, and is curating some exhibits at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art's temporary location early next year.

"I'm optimistic," he said. "I think it's going to work out. It's promising that people are getting up and going and rebuilding their studios and staying. (We are) a pretty deep community here, we're going to stick it out."


The Sun Herald

MDAH to Oversee New Grant Program

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) will administer a new federal grant program that will distribute $26 million for historic properties along the Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Katrina. The grants are available for publicly or privately owned structures listed or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Properties in the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area, which includes George, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River and Stone counties, will be given preference when applying for grants, as specified by the federal government.

Any private property owner, unit of state or local government or non-profit organization (excepting active religious organizations) may submit a grant application to protect, stabilize, preserve, restore or rehabilitate a property that is listed or eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places and was damaged by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita. Major reconstruction projects, such as recreating a building that has been completely destroyed, are not eligible. Eligible properties may also apply for reimbursement of hurricane-related repairs that have already been completed according to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Treatment of Historical Properties.

For more information, contact Rhonda Rhodes at the Hancock County Community Development Foundation at (228) 467-9048, or Preservation House in Biloxi at (228) 435-1180.