House Panel Investigates Katrina Response In South Mississippi

An employee of Stennis held up two photos of Long Beach and said, "This is actually the debris line up here. So it's total destruction."

The "before" and "after" pictures gave five members of Congress an idea of the sheer intensity of Hurricane Katrina.

"With three to four foot waves on top of it, it continued to eat up everything in its path," said Long Beach Mayor Billy Skellie.

Mayors from Long Beach, Gulfport and Bay St. Louis also shared their storm stories with the U.S. House Committee, and talked about their needs and frustrations over flood insurance, debris deadlines, and FEMA.

"We have FEMA representatives all over the coast, but not one of them has the authority to make a decision," said Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre.

Afterwards, the Katrina committee boarded a bus for a sightseeing tour they will never forget.

Mayor Favre pointed out the window and said, "This is what we call our Cedar Point area. You can see nothing now but slabs. Nothing at all was sacred. It just wiped everything out."

"It is overwhelming, sickening at the sense of loss, and the destruction and the demolition of lives and homes and communities," said Mississippi Congressman Chip Pickering.

Mississippi leaders hope the first-hand look at the destruction will show Congress that the recovery is far from over.

"They will better understand our infrastructure needs, our regulatory reform needs, so we can get clear answers. Whether it is the flood maps, or the building codes, the water, the sewer, the infrastructure needs. All those things that can either stifle our rebuilding, or speed our rebuilding," Pickering said.

"As long as they keep coming down, we're not forgotten. That's the most important thing. We don't need pity, but we need help, and they're the ones that are going to be able to get us the help," Mayor Favre said.

The Katrina committee also toured all the cities in Harrison County. The panel will hold more hearings next month and then present its findings and recommendations to the full House.