"We literally fell to our knees when we saw that our beautiful home had withstood the storm," Mary Flores wrote in a letter to the Sun Herald.
   She and her husband, Tomás, bought the house at 510 North Beach Blvd. in Bay St. Louis in 1982 and raised their only child, Hugh, there. It had windows blown out upstairs, some Sheetrock fallen from ceilings and about an inch of water downstairs, but they were lucky.
   One of Hurricane Katrina's most astonishing feats of strength happened right in front of the Flores' house. The storm washed away Beach Boulevard for almost exactly 1¼ miles, taking the chunk of land they owned east of the road as well as a sizable hunk of their front yard.
   The city has had to rig water and sewer service, but the Floreses have all utilities in place and are making repairs on weekends.
   Tomás is a doctor at a hospice in Raleigh, where they rode out the storm. Mary said the storm was bad enough there in the middle of the triangle formed by Hattiesburg, Meridian and Jackson that they didn't have time to think about what was going on in Bay St. Louis.
   The patients from Raleigh had to be moved to another hospital in Meridian because the power was out. On Friday after the Monday storm, the Floreses were watching CNN when they saw a flyover of Beach Boulevard.
   They saw Our Lady of the Gulf Church, then Hotel Reed Nursing Center.
   "We were just standing there, kind of like we couldn't hardly breathe," Mary said in a phone interview. "They went from Hotel Reed and then we saw the other houses, and finally we saw our house."
   Mary's father had been a building inspector in Jefferson Parish, La. When he inspected the home after they bought it, he was impressed and said it was a strong house.
   "He was right," said Mary.
- DON HAMMACK