Don’t get me started

The in-laws had a little Christmas night gathering Sunday in which the topic of conversation finally rolled around to Katrina damage on the gulf coast. The wife and I talked about our trip through Waveland and the unimaginable level of destruction there.

But instead of the standard “yeah, it was really bad” stuff, I got this from a know-it-all, Miami-centric transplanted Yankee co-worker of a family member:

“I can”t believe Mississippi didn”t have stricter building codes. Of course wood houses aren”t going to survive a hurricane.” She went on to explain how houses in Miami are built to withstand 250-mph winds.

It wasn”t wind, I told her, that destroyed the Mississippi coast. It was the massive storm surge that literally washed away everything from the beach to the railroad tracks – a half-mile inland.

But the hurricane-code houses can take a flood, she said. The interiors have to be re-done, but you don”t see houses destroyed like in Mississippi.

Sure, I said, rebuilding in Mississippi will be to modern code. But these houses had survived a lot of storms – including Camille – and Katrina was just on a scale never seen before. These places weren”t even built on the beach.

Miami, she said again, sees a lot of flooding in hurricanes but not the kind of damage that happened in Mississippi. Her house – five miles inland – has been damaged but never destroyed.

At this point, the wife jumped in: “Not flooding – a 35-FOOT WALL OF WATER.”

In the spirit of Christmas, we let the conversation die. And I figured it best to ignore the side conversation I heard the wife”s father starting:

“If those people [read: black people in New Orleans] were too stupid to leave, they deserved what they got.”

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