JACKSON COUNTY,MS (WLOX) – Jackson County is steadily getting back on its feet after being knocked down by one of the worst storms in the United States history five years ago. Hurricane Katrina's devastation motivated the county and citizens to build back safer, smarter and stronger.
Hurricane Katrina's powerful punch damaged and destroyed 12,000 homes. Pat and Bill Decher's house was among the 12,000 homes both damaged and destroyed in Jackson County.
"You are in essence homeless," Bill Descher said.
Five years later, the couple is back home with a new house and new outlook on life.
"You no longer worry about material things in life and so on. You just appreciate having a place where it is a home," Bill Descher said.
It is also back to business for several retail shops and restaurants. In fact, more than 10,000 housing and building permits have been issued post Katrina in Jackson County.
"We had to get back open as soon as possible to try to put some normalcy and of course to get some income too," Richard Chenoweth said.
Chenoweth owns Scranton's restaurant, and he has vivid memories of what Katrina's wind and water did to his place.
"When the water started coming I was watching the dumpster floating up the street here and water was up to here," Chenoweth said.
Jackson County leaders have been successful in getting governmental buildings back up and running. They cut the ribbon on a $4.5 million Health Department that has a tornado shelter in the back. Another $4 million was spent to remodel both the Sheriff's Office and the courthouse. A new $14 million County Services complex is also in the works in downtown Pascagoula.
The county is also investing in more storm protection. In May, the county opened a $1.5 million dollar evacuation shelter in the Fontainebleau Community. Three other shelters will soon go up in Jackson County.
"These things are 10,000 square foot facilities that FEMA is building for us. They will house four to 500 people each," Supervisor John McKay said.
Leaders and citizens said they are proud that great strides are being made in restoring what Katrina messed up and they hope the work continues.