Mississippi, like countless other places shaped by human activity, was made from and of Earth. The livelihood of Mississippians, past and present, was tied to what they could pull from it, and from it they constructed a world turned inside out. They erected their stately plantation homes from Mississippi clay and timber, and paid for them with seed – fully-blossomed cotton seed – nurtured in the earth. In more recent times the sand, so important to sun-seekers and snow-weary Northerners, was brought up out of the sea to make the beaches. This is all to say that what existed for coastal Mississippians in 2005 was the culmination of a lot of digging, planting, erecting, and reshaping. And then it was all washed away.
The Magnolia State’s coastline appeared upside down after Katrina’s arrival, with homes resting on their roofs and sides. Like Betsy, Camille, Frederic, and countless other unnamed storms that came before it, Hurricane Katrina remade coastal Mississippi. Social and economic relationships were inverted, too. Washed away here, however, is any pretense that the impact of the storm would be even across affected communities.
This presentation focuses on the pace of recovery from Hurricane Katrina along the Mississippi coast. Pre-existing social and physical vulnerabilities may lead to different recovery outcomes, but what it means to have “recovered” is far from clear. The work presented here sets the stage for explanation of the different recovery outcomes in Mississippi from Hurricane Katrina, and ultimately works toward answering more than just questions about the way things are, but also how things ought to be.
Jerry T. Mitchell is the Director of the Center of Excellence for Geographic Education and a Research Professor of Geography at the University of South Carolina. He is also a faculty research associate with the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute. His primary research areas lie in cultural responses to disaster, hazards education, and the use of geospatial technologies for vulnerability assessments. A graduate of Towson University, he earned his BS degree in History and a MA in Geography and Environmental Planning. He received his PhD in Geography from the University of South Carolina where he returned as a faculty member in 2004 after serving as an Associate Professor of Geography at Bloomsburg University. He has authored more than fifty articles and book chapters, with work appearing in the journals Natural Hazards Review, Environmental Hazards, Cartography and GIS, and the Annals of the Association of American Geographers. He is currently co-authoring a book for Cambridge University Press on Hurricane Katrina recovery and has been the editor of the Journal of Geography since 2010.