It's tough to leave that specter behind when it is all around. Driving over Escambia Bay, Dan casually remarked that the section of I-10 we were on had been ripped apart some by Ivan nearly three years ago. That storm also made it a certainty that every house on Navarre Beach was going to sport storm shutters on every window, and that one house in particular was going to look exactly like a modified flying saucer on stilts, ready to launch at even the slightest whiff of a gust in the triple digits. The fact that most of the houses on the beach were there before and after Ivan is a testament to the changes in housing codes enacted and enforced by the aftermath of that granddaddy of bad hurricanes - Andrew in 1992.
Somebody did comment over at Ashley's about Andrew's anniversary. Coozan Pat made a note of it as well. It's because of the latter that I dug up my copy of Carl Hiaasen's Kick Ass, a compilation of his columns for the Miami Herald, and found yet another case of plus ca change, plus ce le meme chose:
The other day, the Latin Builders Association took out a full-page ad to whine about all the bad press that the construction industry is getting. The LBA implied that shoddy workmanship wasn't widespread, that Andrew's supernatural gusts were humanly unstoppable.
Especially if your contractor didn't bother to fasten your roof to your house.
...other developers also are pitching the myth of the Big One: Hey, we sell sturdy homes. Nothing could have survived Andrew. (Except the low-cost houses built by Habitat for Humanity.)
While the companies try to cover their butts, homeowners are filing richly deserved lawsuits. A grand jury is convening (yes, again). Even the State Attorney's office is on the prowl for indictments. More shocking revelations are sure to come.
Andrew exposed, at a terrible human cost, what happens when a system meant to protect citizens is poisoned by greed, politics, corruption and ineptitude.
Failure occurred at every step. The vaunted South Florida Building Code deliberately was weakened to allow faster, cheaper work. Staples instead of nails? Great idea! Waferboard instead of plywood? Hey, give it a try. What next - Lego blocks?*
We drove back from the beach in rain, but the clouds parted when we decided to exit I-10 and head to Highway 90. Casinos are back, and they are fully land-based. There are three brand new Waffle Houses between Biloxi and Gulfport. Chiquita bananas are coming through Gulfport once again in shipping container loads. What is not there, however, screamed bloody murder at us as we drove past. Weeds choke crumbling foundations all along the highway. There's not much along that scenic byway that is being rebuilt unless it is commercially viable for Mississippi, it seems. I really wish what we've got here in NOLA with the blogpocheh were as easily discernible and accessible in the Mississippi Gulf Coast, because I think it would help a heckuva lot more to draw attention to the region than having our illustrious oaf of a president visiting Bay St Louis. On-the-ground accounts of doings in that area mean a great deal more for everyone involved - as well as for those who want to be involved. Such accounts can be grounds for change.
Without the voices of all our survivors of the Big Ones (or the Big Crimes) raised in the same song, we are truly lost. It is at that point in time that the decision to say good-bye to the places where the land meets the Gulf has been made for us.
I'm happy to say that, though I now know full well what can befall these beautiful places, whether it be nature's fury or human folly, I'm not ready to say good-bye.
My son has only just begun to say hello. There's so much more to show him yet.
*from Carl Hiaasen's Kick Ass : "Blustery Talk About Andrew Is All Hot Air" 10-18-1992
And, yes, that pic is of a 1" x 4" plank imbedded in a palm tree. To learn more, head here.