In Wake of Dual Disasters, Gulf Coast Recovering from Katrina and Oil Spill

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Bill Sniffin
Bill Sniffin

It was a cold, brisk evening on Bourbon Street when we visited New Orleans March 2.  In fact, it was their chilliest night of the year.  We were bundled up like Wyoming people know how to do, while the locals were shivering and barely covered.

 
It was our first trip to The Big Easy and we were interested in how the place looked like after suffering two unimaginable catastrophes in the last seven years.
 
Here in Wyoming, we try to imagine how we would survive catastrophes of the size of a Hurricane Katrina or a BP oil spill.
 
Perhaps if Yellowstone blew up a little  (a lot would obliterate us and there would be no recovery) or some kind of horrible forest fires or drought?  Maybe a major earthquake? 
 
Not sure what could happen to a place with just 565,000 people spread out over 98,000 square miles that could equal a monster hurricane hammering a small area of 1.3 million people.
 
But here we were and the locals seemed just fine, albeit shivering.
 
We tested the famous and super sweet Hurricane drinks at Pat O’Brien’s and then wandered around between the bars, restaurants, loud music and the tourist traps. We finally dined at 11 p.m.  Cannot honestly ever remember eating that late back in Wyoming. 
 
I was actually surprised that NOLA (which stands for New Orleans, Louisiana) is that big a city.  Lots of skyscrapers and wow, is Lake Pontchartrain a big lake or what?  It is vast at 24 by 40 miles.
 
Most of the hurricane damage to New Orleans seemed to be out of our eyesight so it could be easy to assume their recovery is complete.
 
From there we headed to a reunion on Biloxi, MS where my older brother Tom would celebrate his 70thbirthday with three siblings from Wyoming, Colorado and Iowa.
 
Evidence of the hurricane was more evident there.  Hulks of former casinos spanned the horizon.  There are swathes of flat land where formerly expensive homes once existed.  Nobody is rebuilding them.
 
We stayed at a 32-story high-rise casino called the IP. Our group played their excellent golf layout. Shell Landing is a wonderful course except for exceptionally deep bunkers with super-fine sand that encouraged my ball to bury itself.
 
Temperatures were in the high 60s and our four-brother foursome got its money’s worth by the number of strokes it took to get around 18 holes.
 
The birthday brother won over $500 on the slot machines, which was referred to as “recycled losses” provided by his younger brothers, Bill, Pat and Jim.
 
It’s time for me to start an organization called Buffets Anonymous. We just ate ourselves silly at the casino, which featured delicious seafood, including crawfish.   Are you really supposed to bite off their heads and suck out their innards?
 
After three days the partying was over and we drove back across the giant bridges and causeways to our motorhome to Melissa, a little town north of Dallas.
 
We made a side trip to tiny Glenmora, LA, which is where my mom and dad were married 70 years ago.  It was the site of Camp Claiborne, where my father was stationed before being deployed overseas in World War II.
 
I called my 88-year old mother, who lives in Lafayette, CO, and told her where we were, which pleased her greatly.  We were unable to locate the soda pop factory where she and dad lived in a second floor apartment nor the town’s old picture show.  We took photos of its Main Street and water tower and emailed them to her.
 
This was a trip full of memories, not just of being with brothers or visiting my mom’s wedding site.  It was also of huge bridges and one long stretch of I-10 that was on stilts for 20 miles because of the enormous swamp covering that area. 
 
There was an area between Glenmora and Alexandria that had over 20 large nurseries – and they were busy.  The first week of March is planting time in that part of the world.  I couldn’t help comparing it with the snow and cold in Wyoming.
 
We have been “wintering” in Texas for about two months. It’s been a wonderful time, especially being with daughter Amber and her husband Craig and grandkids Daylia, Braley and Emery
 
But it is time to leave.  Too many people here.
 
And I am just about getting used to rush hour traffic.  That is a sure sign it is time to head back to Wyoming.
 
            
 
 
 
Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns and blogs at www.billsniffin.com.  He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent book is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at www.wyomingwonders.com.
 
 
 
 
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