Hurricane Katrina

VANCLEAVE: Real estate's the hot buy here

VANCLEAVE - This community in central Jackson County, north of Interstate 10, is continuing a growth spurt, eight months after Katrina that began before the storm.

Real Estate Broker Tom Harper said sellers are getting their asking prices for houses, which are running about 15 percent higher than before the storm, but there were only 22 for sale in early April.

One subdivision in the $250,000 range sold out in the past year. Undeveloped parcels in the 1- to 5-acre range are nonexistent, Harper said.

Forget rentals. But there are nine subdivisions started or recently finished. It was a growing community even before the storm.

Though numerous homes were damaged by Katrina winds, blue roofs are now scarce along the major thoroughfare, Mississippi 57. Churches are still funneling needed volunteers through the area making repairs to homes.

The upheaval in the weeks after the storm - a FEMA command post taking over the ball fields, families leaving because of lost jobs, a run on the best available property and overflowing RV parks - has settled down.

Camp Journey's End near Interstate 10 has returned to being simply full with 112 campers, down from being crammed with 146 the damaged park took in, along with tent dwellers in the months after the storm.

J.P. Fero, a 12-year resident of the community who runs the Family Medical Clinic, said he has lost several hundred patients and gained several hundred since Katrina. Many of those working at the casinos no longer had medical insurance or had to move to find work.

The new people aren't used to the quiet country life, he said. They add to the traffic congestion by traveling 20 to 30 minutes back to Ocean Springs or Biloxi for the things they miss.

The public library has run out of non-resident temporary library cards, the restaurants are hopping, the schools have posted a 130 percent increase in enrollment and at least two major fast-food chains are eyeing the area.

The UPS guy finishing a quick lunch said, "Three years from now, you won't recognize this place."

The series

The Sun Herald this month continues its 30 Communities in 30 Days series, which looks at how area neighborhoods are recovering from Hurricane Katrina. We will update these stories every six months.

What Katrina did

High winds caused roof and window damage to many homes in Vancleave, and took a heavy toll on timberland. Some trees smashed houses and businesses. Except for fishing camps there was nominal flooding.