August 4, 2006

Tense in Mississippi Over Recent Hurricane Threat

It has been almost 1 year since Hurricane Katrina ravaged Mississippi and Louisiana, but this region is still traumatized. Many people are still dealing with Katrina-related damage. Some are still living in temporary housing, and many are involved in litigation with their insurance companies. Others are simply trying to cope with the psychological aftermath, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

I realized the lingering impact of Katrina most vividly when the national media coverage of Chris began. These reports showed Chris strengthening into a tropical storm and heading straight for the Gulf Coast. The local reaction to early reports of Chris were so different from how storms were treated before Katrina. I'd characterize the mood not as one of panic, as many had predicted, but one of palpable dread and tension. It is as if people are torn between not wanting to think about a possible hurricane and being unable to push it from their minds.

My co-workers started monitoring Chris almost as soon as it was announced. Virtually every computer had been directed to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) website. It has been surprising how many people assumed the worst, never considering that Chris might weaken, might not enter the Gulf, etc. The consensus was that a hurricane strike would be the last straw for those residents who were attempting to rebuild there. I must admit feeling myself caught up in considering such worst-case scenarios.

Now that Chris appears to be weakening, one would expect a massive sign of relief. However, I do not see this happening. Rather, the sense is that we have only earned a temporary reprieve. The question on everyone's mind is, "What about the next one?"

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