Hurricane Katrina

Saws cut through quiet

ST. MARTIN - The quiet days in Gulf Hills are filled with the birds pleasantly chirping and saws tenaciously buzzing.

In neighborhoods where golf-cart traffic is usually more prevalent, convoys of contractors and debris trucks still dominate the roads.

Roughly 20 percent of the homes in Gulf Hills, about 100 out of 500 homes, were destroyed and 50 percent to 60 percent were damaged from Hurricane Katrina, said Dave Philo, president of the Gulf Hills Civic Association.

Many homeowners, despite obstacles in rebuilding, are rebounding. Slowly, FEMA trailers have vanished as homeowners move back.

"It may take a couple of years, and it may look different, but it will rebound," Philo said.

In the lowest parts of Gulf Hills, the many months since Hurricane Katrina have done little to improve destroyed or severely damaged homes.

Near West El Bonito and Porteaux and Olivida streets, neighborhoods once 30 homes deep are reduced to large, cleared lots, many with sale signs posted.

But there are some success stories.

James and Joan Pylate, who rode out the storm in the attic of their home at West El Bonito and Porteaux, have just moved back inside.

The storm ripped off their house siding and part of the roof but volunteers with their church, the Cedar Lake Assembly of Christ, rebuilt the home from the bricks still standing.

"They have really done some good work," Pylate said outside the house.

At the golf course, business from local golfers is back to normal, but business from out-of-town golfers is down 90 percent, said Arnold Verhoeven, the golf club's president.

The greens have come a long way, he said.

"We're just trying to get it in the condition it was," said Verhoeven. "The greens are getting better every day. It's just a little scarred around the edges."

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.

Kevin Harris of B & J Masonry of Biloxi builds a block fence for a customer in Gulf Hills on Wednesday. The fence is being rebuilt stronger after being damaged by Katrina.

Tony Wilks of Wayne Hudson Construction paints a customer's home in Gulf Hills on Wednesday.

What Katrina did

Most homes within two to three blocks of the waterfront were flooded by tidal surge and many homes had serious structural damage. Strong winds and falling debris caused slight to major roof damage to homes farther from the water.