Nightly News   |  August 29, 2010

Miss. still fighting for Katrina comeback

As they did after 1969’s Hurricane Camille, many are counting on Mississippi to eventually shake off the effects of Katrina, but as NBC’s Lester Holt reports, the state is still wrestling with the toll of the storm.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, host (New Orleans): We're back. This is the Mississippi Gulf Coast five years ago, devastated by Katrina . The Bay St. Louis Bridge was destroyed there along Highway 90 . It has since been replaced with a taller and wider span. Elsewhere along the coast, debris has been cleared, but many homes have not yet been rebuilt there, either. Our own Lester Holt was among those who covered the story five years ago, the damage Katrina did to so many lives along this coastline. He returned to Mississippi for us and reports tonight from Gulfport .

LESTER HOLT reporting: No matter how many times they've driven to 668 East Beach Boulevard these last five years, Ann Anderson and Vernon LeCord find only memories.

Ms. ANN ANDERSON: This is approximately where our bedroom would have been.

HOLT: We met them a few days after Katrina pummeled the Mississippi coast...

Mr. VERNON LeCORD: I just, I don't know, it takes my breath away.

HOLT: ...and were with them as they saw the remains of their Gulfport home for the first time . The impression lasts to this day.

Ms. ANDERSON: Cherish your family and friends and just know that you'll always have your memories.

HOLT: Today there are row after row of vacant beachfront lots like theirs, but it's memorials like this one in Pass Christian that speak to what Katrina really cost Mississippi . By the time Katrina reached Mississippi , she'd already made landfall twice before in Florida and Louisiana , but she saved her biggest punch for this area near Waveland , Mississippi , the dangerous right front quadrant of the storm that set a storm surge more than 20 feet high across neighborhood after neighborhood. More than 230 people died here, many simply swept away.

Unidentified Woman: Our house is gone.

HOLT: We found the Roche family days after the storm, four children and another on the way, hungry and living in their car after trying to return to their Pass Christian home.

Unidentified Man: Everything's gone.

HOLT: We caught up with them last week in Florida , where they relocated just after Katrina .

Woman: We got out, where you know, we don't have to watch them in misery every day.

Man: The kids got to school right off the bat and they were just another kid.

HOLT: The land where the Roche 's old home sat is still vacant. Slowly, however, new and restored homes and buildings are rising along the scarred Mississippi coast. In the year after Katrina , its population dropped 9 percent, but as it did after 1969 's Hurricane Camille , many are counting on Mississippi to eventually shake off Katrina .

Ms. ANDERSON: If we're ever able to, we are going to build something smaller, a little more hurricane-resistant.

HOLT: And, she adds, a lot higher. Lester Holt , NBC News, Gulfport , Mississippi .