Hurricane Isaac leaves damage, memories of Katrina in its wake
On Aug. 28, almost seven years to the day Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Hurricane Isaac blasted the same area.
Though only a Category 2 storm, Isaac’s arrival at high tide, its direction and slow movement caused widespread damage and destruction across South and Central Mississippi from storm surge, flooding and wind, making it one of the top news stories of 2012.
It did not take long for Mississippians to get a feel for Isaac’s impact. Entergy Mississippi reported that more than 90,000 customers in the state were immediately left without power. The utility’s first estimate of the cost to it from Isaac was around $500 million.
Just as with Katrina, one of the first concerns in Isaac’s aftermath was insurance. Would insurers be able to stomach the losses? Fortunately, losses were less than Katrina and the state’s windpool stood the test (MBJ, Sept. 3: “Windpool, private insurer on Coast confident they can handle Isaac risks”).
But, the storm caused more losses for the tourism/hospitality industry that was still reeling from Katrina and the BP oil spill. Isaac caused the closure of large stretches of beaches — Hancock County had tens of thousands of dead nutria on its beaches and other beaches were closed because of potential post-storm pollution and contaminates. Some beaches did not open until October.
Coast casinos were forced to close, and lack of tourists caused revenues to plummet.
In the end, nearly 50 counties across the state were declared disaster areas. More than half of the counties in Mississippi were eligible for reimbursement for repairs and/or cleanup from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which ended up allocating more than $11 million in grants.
The Mississippi Department of Employment Security offered assistance in 22 counties, and the U.S. Small Business Administration reported more than $1 million in Disaster Assistance Loans were approved. Business Recovery Centers opened in all three coastal counties.
Among the market sectors, concerns were perhaps highest among farmers.
The storm’s timing forced many producers to hurriedly get crops out of the field. Still, many saw a potential statewide agricultural disaster looming.
One of the bright spots in the storm’s aftermath, however, was producers saw minimal damage, and 2012 will largely be remembered as a year when farmers finally caught a break (MBJ, Sept. 24: “Isaac’s toll on Mississippi crops far less than damage in Louisiana”).