Katrina Minus 58

Imagine stepping into a time machine and seeing exactly the same thing…

By Mark Proulx - Filed 08/28/2015  Special to GCN



It’s interesting when you sit and talk to the older generation about what they remember. I came up from Florida to be with the family, see old friends, talk about what happened…you know, try to make sense of it all. No conversation hit me harder than the one I had with my mother on Friday afternoon.


We began with hot tea and light conversation like we always do and then something invariably with lead us into a lively discussion about what should have happened, who should have done what, people not respecting the power of Nature, when suddenly she mentioned something from her childhood.


“I remember back in the back of the house at Mama’s they had a kitchen room and when the storm in 1947 came through I was standing in the back watching the storm, the wind, the water. Now that I think about it, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do but we were just kids and didn’t know any better.”


Something got me Googling the “unnamed hurricane of 1947” and I started reading: “Viewed from the standpoint of property damage (approximately $135 million) 1947 must be viewed as one of the most destructive in the history of the Hurricane Warning Service, established in 1873.


During the 1947 season, ten tropical storms were detected, five of which developed hurricanes or near-hurricane force winds. The most intense was that of September 10-19 which crossed the southern portion of the Florida peninsula on the 17th [Katrina crossed August 25th], traversed the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and moved inland on the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts on the morning of the 19th [Katrina was the morning of the 29th], with the center passing directly over the business section of New Orleans. This hurricane took a toll of 51 lives in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.” www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/mwr_pdf/1947.pdf


Not only did the damage estimates put this 1947 hurricane as one of the costliest in the history of hurricanes, calculate for today’s dollars and you would have had a natural disaster of at least equal proportion to Katrina.


Katrina took the exact same path as this 1947 hurricane. It crossed Florida in exactly the same place. It traveled up the Gulf Stream. It grew to massive proportions. And it finally landed in exactly the same place. These two massive storms 58 years apart were mirror images of each other in every way imaginable.


In fact, it’s downright creepy how similar they look from what they left behind.








Photo Credit:  Hancock County Historical Society and Mark Proulx


What’s my take away from this?


Well, first of all I don’t start looking for differences, although the differences are clear. Back then plastic hadn’t been invented yet. The petroleum industry was just a fledgling industry and fossil fuels were not commonly used by the world. There were only about three billion people on the planet at the time and less than 100 miles of paved roads in America, much less any other country. So the destructive force of this hurricane cannot possible have come about as a consequence of human interaction with pollutants, fossil fuels, plastics or the sheer amount of methane from human farts. We were definitely not using CFC’s to deplete the ozone layer and people lived a much simpler life.


So looking at the differences certainly will not truly allow us to understand things like Earth’s climate. So I begin my journey to how I feel about this by looking at what was the same about this.




At least here in Mississippi,  we came together as a community: white, black, Hispanic, Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, rich, poor, middle class. We got to work rebuilding. We set out to start putting things right immediately. With whatever we had at the time. We cared for one another and gave some who had nothing the last of what we had simply because they needed it.


Like ants. Productive. Working. Caring. Giving. Not waiting for permission. Just doing what needed to be done. Being Social. We socialized like we never had before. We became more like true Christians and Human Beings than we ever had in our lives because life called upon us to do the right things.


This is the heart and soul of Socialism. The true meaning. The base word – “social.” We need each other to make it happen. We need other people, we need family, we need partners whether in business or personal. Regardless of gender. No one cared about gays, or religious rights, or righteous indignations when sitting in the hot Mississippi sun, with no house, no food, no water and no hope.


That hope came from each other. From a gay man and woman. From a black man and woman. From a Jew or gentile. From illegals. From out-of-staters. We witnessed the largest outpouring of love from every type of person imaginable simply because we dropped our hubris, our pride, our loud mouths. We became humble. We asked for help. And a nation responded.


So are there lessons to be learned here? Many. But the most important lesson of all is that regardless of how nasty or bold or brazen or hateful or racist or political you are now,  there could very well be a time where you will have to truly understand what it’s like to be humble. That we still have a lot of love for each other. And disasters will continually happen. And we, at least here in Mississippi, will always have your back.