Hurricane Katrina

Steps to nowhere dot the post-Katrina landscape

The sun rises over steps and foundation in Gulfport. Steps to nowhere still remain from Hurricane Katrina.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD The sun rises over steps and foundation in Gulfport. Steps to nowhere still remain from Hurricane Katrina. SUN HERALD

Like monuments on a distant battlefield, steps leading to nowhere still stand along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, serving as a daily reminder of Hurricane Katrina's fury.

It isn't the first time that residents could drive along the Coast and see only steps where homes used to be. In 1969, Hurricane Camille devastated the area leaving ruined homes and lives.

For years, the steps stood creating a Coast term, "steps to nowhere." Such steps seem to stand the test of time, lasting for more than 10 years after the storms that caused them.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina's wind and surge demolished Coast homes and dreams. In Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties, steps leading nowhere once again dotted the landscape.

Charles Sullivan, archivist at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, said of the new steps, "The steps to nowhere represent shattered lives and having to start over. With Katrina, it's on a grander scale than it was with Camille."

A drive along U.S. 90 or along Beach Boulevard in Hancock County shows green space that once did not exist. While it was startling to see only steps remaining immediately after Hurricane Katrina, it is heartbreaking to see the same steps 10 years later. Have the home or business owners truly started over or are their lives still in limbo?

In Waveland, two long stairways lead to a home that is no longer there. Caution ribbons block these stairways to keep people from climbing them.

At the USM Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, a historical marker shows the administration building that used to stand in the center of the campus. Now, stairs lead to green space that marks the footprint of the former building.

In Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulfport and Biloxi, steps stand with nothing else around them. Gone are the homes where the steps used to lead. People have moved away or built new homes in adjacent lots.

Standing like a solitary sentinel and sometimes covered by scrub brush, steps leading nowhere remind everyone of Hurricane Katrina.

Gone are the homes where photographs of different generations lined the walls. Hallways where children's laughter used to echo no longer exist. The hopes of a long life in a dwelling that everyone referred to as home in only a distant memory.

Slowly, the steps and foundations are being torn down or having structures built around them. Others still stand, where only those who lived there can remember what once stood before the hurricane named Katrina.