PASCAGOULA, Miss. – The two-mile stretch of Beach Boulevard where waterfront mansions stood perched above the lapping gulf waters now resembles a million-dollar junkyard of shattered brick walls and white columns.
Poor people living further inland also felt the catastrophic fury of Hurricane Katrina (search), which sent floodwaters up to five-feet deep rushing into shotgun houses 11/2 miles from the beach.
Katrina clobbered the rich and poor alike in this Gulf Coast city of 25,000 near the Alabama state line. At least 15 people were reported killed by the storm in Pascagoula (search) and surrounding Jackson County.
"We've been trying to dig and find some of our silver or anything we can salvage out of the ground," Opal Smith, 64, said as she and her husband, Greg, sat Wednesday surrounded by scattered golf clubs, kitchenware, shards of pottery and piles of bricks that used to be the back wall and garage of their 5,500-square-foot home.
Though the Smiths' home was built 15-feet above the water, the storm surge as Katrina crashed ashore Monday stripped most of the brick, doors, windows and sheetrock from the first floor of their house. Five white columns that survived out front framed a gaping hole exposing the stairway inside.
Their more-prominent neighbor — one of Mississippi's U.S. senators — fared no better.
"Trent Lott's (search) house is down the street," said Greg Smith, 72, an insurance salesman. "There's not anything left."
"He's among the many who have losses and it has been a very emotional thing," Lott's press secretary, Susan Irby, said Wednesday.
At least eight homes along Beach Boulevard were ripped from their foundations, leaving nothing but concrete slabs and pilings scattered with debris. Others had shredded roofs sagging on buckled wood frames that had been stripped bare like skeletons.
Computer monitors, recliners and broken tables littered what were once manicured lawns. Muddy clothes and strips of insulation dangled from gnarled oaks trees.
Brian and Samantha Bosio found their small one-story home a block from the beach had been lifted by the storm and shifted five feet off its foundation. But at least they still had a home.
"His parents had a house on the beach. Now it's just cement studs," said Samantha Bosio, 23. "We don't even know where the house went."
Less than two miles away, Maggie Handford had ripped out the carpet in her small, tin-roofed house and was trying to determine how much of her water-logged furniture was ruined. Waste-deep floodwaters had swept into her home Monday as the 46-year-old rode out the storm with her 6-year-old grandson.
Sweating on her front porch, with no ice or electricity for air conditioning, Handford said she's hardly been able to sleep during the muggy nights despite being exhausted.
"You just have to fight to sleep, it's so hot," she said. "You can't leave the doors open because there's looting."