Video: Town regrets rebuilding after hurricane

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/18/2006 7:55:46 PM ET 2006-01-19T00:55:46

Jessie Murphy sees her reflection in the flooded images of New Orleans and fears victims could drift into another disaster by rebuilding.

"Those people are in for the surprise of their life," she says. "If I had known what I know now, I wouldn't have ever tried to rebuild."

From the look of things, Princeville has resurfaced after Hurricane Floyd left it underwater in 1999.

But Jessie Murphy is drowning in debt — her $1,200 monthly disability income swallowed by multiple home loans.

And she's not alone. Only a handful of Princeville homeowners had flood insurance, which means they're paying off the old house and the new. All the improvements here have driven property taxes higher, and foreclosures are routine — a harsh reality many understood only in hindsight.

"You've lost everything you had," says Princeville Mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates. "You can't think about 10 years down the road. You're thinking about getting you a house today."

The rebuilding process can be fraught with delays, some here say. They caution those in New Orleans to develop patience, because all these years later, replacement houses are still going up.

And mixed in with the challenges of rebuilding?  Life.

Six months after the flood, Daisy Staton discovered a lump — breast cancer. It was the first of several hardships for her. She's now eight months behind in her combined mortgage payments, and recently her husband walked out.

"The flood brought all of this about," she says. "It has been an escalating, a domino effect."

Today, the Tar River isn't as frightening as it was six years ago, because many now have flood insurance. That provides some comfort for the next big storm, but not enough to dull the pain from the last.

"Comes again, what am I going to do?" Staton asks herself. "Take the flood insurance and run to higher ground!"

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