Ole Miss Researchers Study Katrina's Destruction And Aftermath

Two ladies are going door-to-door.

"I didn't realize how big this block was," Barbara Hester exclaimed as she walked down a Long Beach neighborhood.

Barbara Hester and Mary Ellen Calvert are fanning across some of the hardest hit neighborhoods. Every person they encounter, brings them one step closer to understanding Katrina's devastation in South Mississippi.

"People have received us very, very warmly," said Calvert.

Both women are part of a team of Ole Miss researchers who are trying to document every home, slab, and trailer.

Dr. David Swanson is the chairman of the Ole Miss Sociology Department.

"We're doing a 100 percent count of what is standing on the ground. What is left. For example, slabs, block by block, counting them. And with the assistance of the Census Bureau, we're also GPSing those units. So we have an accurate count of what's standing, what was destroyed, and what was damaged."

The teams are dealing with more than just facts and figures. They're digging deeper to find out how people are coping emotionally with the catastrophe.

"The questions we're asking in the long questionnaire are important. They address how were you before the hurricane, what happened to you during the hurricane, and how are you doing now," Swanson asked.

"Nine times out of ten, I see hope on people's faces. A few cases have been despair, and that's been hard," said Calvert.

Researchers hope the data they collect will help South Mississippi better prepare and respond to the next natural disaster. The study is funded by a $96,000 grant by the National Science Foundation The results should be available in about six weeks, and will be compared with the 2000 Census data.

Researchers from USM, MSU, and the University of Tennessee are also participating in the study.