All the way to New Orleans ...


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by Todd Franko   | 340 entries"> Untitled document

-->I was able to travel with the Youngstown Air Reserve Station’s 910th Air Wing in April.
We went to Biloxi, Miss., for two days — my first time down south other than Florida.
The first thing to note was the cake-like thickness of the air — even in April.
It was not quaint, delicate cake. It was that heavy cake with pudding filling and triple-frosting; the kind you steal a second piece and hope no one sees you due to the calorie count.
That thick.
The other thing you learn quickly is the destruction still present 10 years after Hurricane Katrina.
It’s present on the streets, and it’s present in the conversations. It seems every conversation with a local resident starts or ends with “Since the storm.”
Ten years later.
It is to them what the steel collapse is to us.
From the 23rd floor of my hotel, I could see the Biloxi Bay to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. 
Yep — it was a cool room. 
OK, except for the coolness of my air conditioning. It was broken, and a facility guy came up to fix it.
So as I’m looking out the windows at the gulf and the bay, which sit about 3 miles apart, I was trying to understand Katrina’s reach onto land now that I’m actually here. So I asked the fix-it guy:

“So when Katrina hit, these two bodies of water became one right,” as I meshed my two sets of fingers into one. The land in between the waters is Biloxi — with great neighborhoods and eateries and especially the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral — the area’s first church dating to the 1600s.  
The fix-it guy looked at me with a pause.
“What do you mean?”
I rephrased my point — that all of this 3 miles of land was under water, and that the gulf merged with the bay, and so on.
“Hell yeah,” he said in a soft drawl, mainly polite, but kind of in a tone as if to say “Ten years later – you still have no idea ..”
So I asked how far north past the bay did the water reach?
He pointed out the window to Interstate 10 about 6 miles away — its traffic streaming on the horizon like ants at a picnic. Water had passed I-10.
I paused. Wow. Six-plus miles of homes and neighborhoods swallowed.
Sometimes I don’t know when to stop asking questions. I guess that’s why I have this job. I should have paused, considered history and news reports — even if some were from Brian Williams.
“Ok — if that’s how far north water reached, how far west did that reach extend?”
He looked at me — polite but befuddled. He drawled:
“New Orleans ....”
That’s 90 miles out my window.
I didn’t dare ask how far east. I just imagined.

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