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These are the stories we told in 2017 that made a lasting impact in South Mississippi

Clockwise from top left: The Biloxi bus-train crash, The Band Perry at the Bicentennial Celebration, Mississippi Aquarium poster, the Mississippi state flag, damage from Hurricane Nate, Sophia Myers, the Bay St. Louis Police Department, one of the new mayors Mike Favre, the Harrison County deputy shooting, and Mississippi Power’s Kemper County plant.
Clockwise from top left: The Biloxi bus-train crash, The Band Perry at the Bicentennial Celebration, Mississippi Aquarium poster, the Mississippi state flag, damage from Hurricane Nate, Sophia Myers, the Bay St. Louis Police Department, one of the new mayors Mike Favre, the Harrison County deputy shooting, and Mississippi Power’s Kemper County plant.

1. Train hits bus stuck on railroad in Biloxi

Four people died and 39 were injured with a tourist bus got stuck on a Biloxi railroad crossing and was hit by a CSX freight train. The driver told federal investigators he took a “more scenic route” that led to the steep rail crossing.

2. Death of Sophia Myers leaves Coast heartbroken but hopeful

South Mississippi fell in love with Sophia Myers, then mourned her death with her family and friends. The captivating 7-year-old also taught us about diffuse intrinsic pontine giloma, a rare brain cancer that has killed an three children in west Jackson County and left us with hope that a cause and cure could be found.

3. The Kemper power plant saga limps to a close

The months-long stalemate between Mississippi Power and the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff ended with a settlement agreement on the remaining costs associated with the failed Kemper plant. Bills will go down about $1 on 1,000 kw hours of electricity use. The plant that backers said would convert coal into synthetic gas cost Mississippi Power billions but only the natural-gas portion of the facility will be used to produce electricity.

4. Voters take the broom to city halls across South Mississippi

City governments got a makeover in most cities along the Coast, with new mayors elected in Ocean Springs, Pascagoula, Gautier, Moss Point and Bay St. Louis. A lot of councilmen and aldermen were turned out to pasture, too.

5. Mississippi Aquarium will get under way in earnest early next year

The city unsealed bids from three companies that want to build the main campus for the Mississippi Aquarium. Roy Anderson Corp. of Gulfport had the low bid, $52.1 million; Thrash Commercial Contractors of Brandon bid $57 million; and Wharton-Smith Inc. bid $59.7 million. All are above the $52 million budgeted. The city expects to clear the project for construction by January.

6. Bay St. Louis police department has had three chiefs this year

Bay St. Louis native Gary Ponthieux, a veteran Gulfport police officer, was named chief, replacing Matt Issman, who was fired by Mayor Mike Favre after two weeks on the job. Issman had replaced Daren Freeman, who resigned after a video surfaced that appears to show him physically restraining a handcuffed suspect.

7. State flag continues to divide the Coast and the rest of Mississippi

The Mississippi flag reviled and cherished for the same reason, the Confederate emblem in its canton, sparked a growing protest along the Coast, causing some cities to join others from across the state in removing it from public property. The latest chapter was a protest march in Ocean Springs, where the new mayor put the flag up, took it down and then after a vote by the Board of Alderman, put it up again.

8. Harrison County deputy who was shot resigns after report raises questions

A Harrison County deputy, who was shot on a dirt road off Mississippi 605, resigned Sept. 1 after a month-long investigation failed to turn up any evidence that backed up his claim.

9. An October hurricane caused headaches in South Mississippi

Hurricane Nate chases Cruisers home early, compresses the Gulfport Music Festival but most of the Coast “dodged a bullet” in the words of emergency crews. Jackson County wasn’t so lucky. It took the brunt of the storm.

10. Gulfport kicks off state’s 200th birthday party

Centennial Plaza was host to parades, concerts and a healthy portion of Coast seafood as Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration South came to town. The celebration concluded in Jackson earlier this month with the opening of the Civil Rights and History museums.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton

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