By Dave Thomas
When we were first asked to journey to the Gulf Coast region to document the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, my first thoughts naturally turned to a simple question. Could it be as bad as what we had seen on TV? I got my answer within minutes of driving through New Orleans' Ninth Ward the first morning after landing in the city. It was much worse!
As my co-worker and I navigated our way through the streets around piles of debris, I know I felt like I was in a war zone you would have seen on TV of Baghdad or elsewhere. The only thing missing were bodies on the streets, but we no doubt passed homes where people still had not been recovered from some two months after Katrina hit.
What follows are some notes and thoughts from our five days in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. While my heart goes out to all those who not only lost properties, but loved ones, I also thank them for allowing me to witness history. I had a much greater appreciation of what these people went through when I boarded the plane at week's end to return to California.
Thanks to Mark Moon of Crawford & Company for contributing some of his photos to this feature.
Top 6 affected companies by estimated claims amount.
Hurricane Insurance Information Center
Excellent collection of facts and statistics related to hurricane disasters and the insurance industry.
Hurricane Law Blog
Current information about hurricane-related legislation, litigation, and regulatory issues affecting Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama.
National Hurricane Center
Hurricane education and history including the Costliest U.S. Hurricanes and the Most Intense Hurricanes in the United States. view satellite and aerial imagery and a Katrina overview.
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Tons of fascinating information about hurricanes including Katrina Environmental Impacts and Great Aerial Photos. The NOAA says "The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season is the busiest on record and extends the active hurricane cycle that began in 1995, a trend likely to continue for years to come."
MSNBC Hurricane's Wrath
News, maps, videos and photos.
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Crawford & Company adjuster Mark Moon plans to be in the greater New Orleans area for some time to come, helping Katrina victims with their claims. Moon discusses the claims process and some of the challenges he faces in assisting residents.
Chalmette, Louisiana resident Judy Lunt and her husband, Charles, could only look on in disbelief when they viewed what was left of their rental properties on one block in this Louisiana neighborhood. Lunt's tragedy was made worse by an apparent arson of the properties weeks after Katrina hit.
Ninth Ward of New Orleans resident Louis Legier, 80, and his 88-year-old cousin made a mad dash for a nearby school as Katrina's flood waters swamped their street. Legier and his cousin survived, but his house didn't.
Insurance Journal Online Editor Dave Thomas shows the destruction that hit one Ninth Ward block of homes, along with the neighborhood school, as Katrina roared into town. Few buildings, cars and other property escaped.
In the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, resident Louis Legier discusses the devastation Katrina wreaked on his home. For Legier, life goes on and he will not let this storm ruin him.
Mississippi insurance agent Aulton Vann knows all too well what his policyholders are going through as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Vann's agency was damaged by flooding and he and his family lost their home overlooking the Gulf. Like many in Mississippi, though, Vann is determined to rebuild.
Mississippi independent insurance agent Aulton Vann vows to rebuild his home. The Pascagoula resident lost his family home which overlooked the Gulf. Vann talks about the loss of the property and the neighborhood he has called home for so many years.
Like other Mississippi independent insurance agents, Dave Treutel knows what his policyholders are going through. Treutel talks from what was his own property and how much work is necessary to rebuild his family home. While the home is still standing, it is months away from being inhabitable again.
Mississippi insurance agent Dave Treutel knows it could have been even worse, and for Treutel and his family, it was pretty bad. While he currently runs his insurance business out of a trailer, Treutel's home and business suffered major damage from Hurricane Katrina. Like many in the Bay St. Louis community, Treutel will pick up the pieces and rebuild in the area he calls home.
For Gulfport Deputy Fire Chief Derek Ladner (Fire Station #7), Hurricane Katrina was like nothing he and his co-workers had ever seen before. With their station damaged by the storm, the men and women from #7 spent a number of harrowing days searching for survivors and doing whatever they could to assist people. Like many in Gulfport, Ladner knows there is much rebuilding work ahead, but it is a job he would not trade for anything.
As Insurance Journal Online Editor Dave Thomas discovered in several Mississippi towns along the coast, Katrina spared just about no one. While some buildings were left standing in some shape, Katrina leveled others and unfortunately took lives with her.
Mississippi Big "I" President Richard Davis had seen storms before, but never of the magnitude of Katrina. Davis talked with Insurance Journal in Bay St. Louis about the Association's efforts to reach out to agents across the state.
Mississippi insurance agent Scott Naugle probably never dreamed he'd one day be working out of a tent on a busy street corner selling insurance. Naugle, like many other Magnolia State businessowners, was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. With his staff working within tight confines outside to meet the needs of their policyholders, Naugle spoke with Insurance Journal about the challenges he and his co-workers have faced, the personal losses of many Mississippi residents and more.
Amazing satellite imagery of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, before and after Hurricane Katrina.
Highly recommended: Download an analysis of New Orleans hurricane images (PDF)