HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) – Right now, a tiny sign on a utility pole tells drivers along Highway 603 just how high Hurricane Katrina's surge reached. Soon, Hancock County will have a more visible, permanent reminder of the 2005 storm's raging waters.
"Some of the highest levels of that surge were experienced here in Hancock County," said MDOT Project Engineer Gabe Faggard. "What we want to do is provide a historical marker that will show to generations to come what that storm surge was."
This week, a contractor for the state Department of Transportation is pouring the foundation for two concrete Gateway Katrina Monuments. They are going up on the shoulders, just off the I-10 exit at the Highway 603 interchange. One faces northbound traffic. The other faces southbound traffic.
"What we're doing is about a 15 by 28 foot concrete monument," said Faggard. "They will be lighted at night, so you can see them 24 hours a day. They're going to be colored-concrete, with a wave symbol etched into the water line where the water actually got to during the storm."
Katrina's surge was actually documented to reach as high as 27 feet in Hancock County. At the I-10 interchange monument site, which is six miles further inland, the water still came up to 13 feet.
"We have got some photos from during the storm that show water at this interchange as high as some of the traffic signals down here. So the water was actually up to the level of the bridge overpass of I-10," said Faggard.
Having the monuments at such busy, highly-visible locations will likely attract the attention of both tourists and local drivers.
"Over time, people tend to forget a catastrophic event. What we want to do is provide a constant reminder to people of just how bad it actually got here during that storm," said Faggard.
Both monuments should be finished in about three weeks. The project costs $46,500.