Census can’t count four cities’ losses

New population estimates are being released today for every incorporated city in America, except Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian and Long Beach.

In the other Coast cities, where researchers were able to gather sound data, the results show a sizeable population drop from July 2005 to July 2006.

Gulfport, the state’s secondlargest city, and Biloxi each saw an 11 percent loss in population. D’Iberville’s population fell 13 percent, the largest drop of any Coast city.

For the first time in recent memory, since the Census B u r e a u began publ i s h i n g annual citypopulation e s t i m a t e s , researchers were unable to gather reliable numbers in four U.S. cities.

Hurricane Katrina flattened hundreds of homes and scattered thousands of Coast residents. Entire neighborhoods — thousands of acres — from Waveland to Long Beach are still vacant and tracking down the people who live in those areas was impossible.

“The U.S. Census Bureau is the most sophisticated population surveyor on the planet and I can’t ever remember seeing this,” said Barbara Logue of the Mississippi Institute of Higher Learning.

In addition to Katrina, Bay St. Louis and Waveland settled an annexation dispute last year, giving Waveland a new chunk of land and nearly doubling the size of the Bay. The annexed land along a dismal stretch of highway mostly filled with skeletal pilings that once held homes and fishing camps may have added to the difficulty.

“Although we spent considerable time researching how to estimate the population for these four places, in the end we were not able to produce estimates that we felt were reliable enough to release to the public,” Greg Harper, a Census Bureau demographer, said in an e-mail to Logue.

Earlier this year the Census Bureau released numbers on U.S. counties, which listed Pearl River County as one of the nation’s top 10 fastest growing counties between July 2005 and July 2006.

Experts say thousands left storm-battered communities behind in southeast Louisiana and Hancock and Harrison counties for higher ground.

This week’s results from the city survey show Picayune’s population has increased by 9 percent and Poplarville by 7 percent.

In July 2005 more than 450,000 people called New Orleans home. One year later the population of New Orleans had dropped to 223,388, a loss of more than 50 percent.