Just about everything Ronnie Hammons owned or collected with his wife ended up in a hurricane debris pile outside his Long Beach home. "Forty five years of marriage no longer there," he said while looking at his mess.
Hammons owns a house on East 3rd Street. It's south of the railroad tracks. And it's 28 feet above the mean high tide. Yet during the height of Katrina, it had four feet of water in it. "Everything was destroyed. There wasn't nothing left," he said.
Because of the hurricane, Hammons now has a view of the Mississippi Sound -- a body of water that caused so much heartache when it crashed into his neighborhood. That's one of the reasons FEMA came up with new flood elevation maps. Its advisory for Long Beach is no different than elevation change recommendations around the rest of Harrison County. FEMA believes property near the sound should be 18 feet above the mean high tide. And homes near area bays should be 16 feet above the mean high tide.
Alderman Richard Burton believes that could be disastrous news for his beleaguered community. "We may be forced to make some tough decisions," the alderman said, "which could keep people from rebuilding their homes close to the beach."
Burton would like to see building permits issued for properties south of the tracks. But that won't be allowed until the city digests the new flood elevation recommendations. "If we rush to adopt these preliminary elevations," Burton said, "it's just sort of a knee jerk reaction to a catastrophic storm that in my opinion was unheard of and may not, will probably not happen for a 1000 years in this manner."
Long Beach will hold a public hearing on Tuesday night. Aldermen have invited a FEMA representative to their meeting, so they can learn more about the flood elevation recommendations.