Alabama coastal residents remember the impact of Katrina

Posted by: Mario Hendricks - bio | email

DAUPHIN ISLAND, AL (WSFA) - Although most of the damage was in Louisiana and Mississippi, Hurricane Katrina killed two people here in Alabama and caused damage in 22 counties along the coast.

That day, Dauphin Island was hit with a fifteen foot storm surge. 350 homes were washed away and the island was forever changed.

The visible destruction was bad enough, but even more startling is the emptiness. House after house washed away.

"Disaster. It was a disaster."

Christine Dopson's home wasn't one of those that washed away but it was quite some time before she could get to her home and know for sure.

"We couldn't for months, like three months. Dirt road gone...Trees...Sand," explained Dopson.

In fact a good chunk of the island disappeared. More than a mile was washed away creating two islands across what is now called "Katrina Cut".

Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier says what's happened over the last decade has been unprecedented. Katrina, Ivan, Dennis, Gustav, Ike, and countless tropical storms.

"It's been uncharacteristic, with the number of storms we've had. With each storm the island gets beat up a bit more and it really just hasn't had a lot of time to heal itself," stated Mayor Collier.

Although there's been no storms this summer, there's been an economic disaster created by the oil spill.

"We were looking for this to be our comeback year and the oil spill has kind of delayed that by one additional season," added Mayor Collier.

Collier says getting home construction going again is critical. Of the 350 homes washed away by Katrina, only 50 have been rebuilt.

For people that live here there's a high level of uncertainty over the island's future.

According to Christine Dopson, "It's very scary for the people that live here. I guess more than anything people who own homes can we sell them? Can we live here? Is it safe to live here?"

Residents along the Alabama coast say they will rebuild with time. The question is will the storms hold off so that they can.

As we approach the peak of this hurricane season EMA officials urge folks to have a plan and stay informed.

Alabama EMA officials say one of the biggest lessons learned after the storm was a need for more shelters.

You may remember, many people took refuge here in Montgomery.

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