Hurricane Katrina

Census: Bay St. Louis only city to eclipse pre-Katrina population

The U.S. Census released population estimates last week for towns, cities and counties across the nation, including ones that showed Bay St. Louis was the second-fastest growing city in Mississippi between 2014 and 2015.

Ten years ago, finding that information was impossible.

The Census Bureau didn't release estimates for four Gulf Coast communities in 2006: Bay St. Louis, Long Beach, Pass Christian and Waveland.

The cities had sustained such severe damage the impact to their populations and housing stock could not be reliably measured.

"In the aftermath of the storm, the Gulf Coast would face many years of rebuilding, and learning how populations were rebounding would be critical for community leaders. For the Census Bureau, producing population estimates for places where many homes had been destroyed and people displaced presented a unique but vital challenge," wrote Sarah Gibb, a Census Bureau statistician and demographer, in a blog published this week.

Over the past 10 years, Census officials have used various methods to measure population change and today can aid in understanding how Hurricane Katrina impacted the Coast.

Plenty has been written on those impacts already. Here's what the Census Bureau can add:

-- Bay St. Louis is the only one of four cities the Census Bureau examined to surpass its pre-Katrina population. On July 1, 2005, the city had 11,287 people. A year later, the population had dropped by about 18 percent. Its population remained flat through 2010 but has since grown by 30 percent to about 700 more people than in 2005.

-- Waveland, which started with a population of 7,849, had the largest percent decrease in population after the storm, dropping 18 percent immediately after Katrina and by an additional 40 people between 2010 and 2015. On July 1, 2015, it sat at about 82 percent of its pre-Katrina population.

-- Long Beach, the largest city in the analysis, saw the greatest total loss in population, dropping by 2,200 people. By 2010, the city's population had recovered to 88 percent of its pre-storm number and in 2015 it was 1,300 people shy of the 2005 estimate.

-- Harrison County added the most housing stock on the Coast after the storm. On July 1, 2005, it had 88,281 housing units. A year later, that had decreased by more than 14,000. Between July 1, 2006, and April 1, 2010, almost 11,000 housing units were added and by July 1, 2015, the county had 2,500 more housing units than it did a decade earlier.

-- The number of housing units in Hancock County dropped by 30 percent after Katrina. By 2010, the housing stock had returned to 90 percent of its pre-storm levels and by July 1, 2015, Hancock County had 24,083 housing units, only 96 short of what was there a decade earlier.