by Hunter Dawkins
Unlike 15 years ago, the small town of Pass Christian, Mississippi doesn’t need to rebuild following the damage left from last week’s Hurricane Zeta.
After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 the city was left with nothing and 28 people dead. The road to recovery and rebuilding lasted more than a decade.
Last Wednesday, Hurricane Zeta damaged the town in other ways. Even though there were no reported deaths by the Harrison County Coroner’s office from the storm, debris, flooding, and winds created problems for all houses and businesses.
“The normal procedure with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is that they pay 75%; except for Hurricane Katrina, which there was so much damage,” said Pass Christian Mayor Leo “Chipper” McDermott, who has served as the city’s top executive for 15 years. “Normally, it’s a year before being reimbursed.”
McDermott became a key public figure during the recovery effort for the storm 15 years ago. Originally elected as Alderman-at-Large, McDermott was chosen to lead the city by the local board of aldermen after the late Mayor Billy McDonald vacated city responsibilities.
In the last 15 years, Mayor McDermott and city officials brought in a number of businesses, festivals, and two hotels while maintaining a relatively small community.
“The biggest liability we have is having two harbors and not one harbor,” expressed McDermott where the boats have not been allowed to enter until the gas lines are cleared by the power companies and debris is removed by the harbor patrol. “The infrastructure for each harbor is in place; I don’t think we have any serious damage to either, but the front end is to get those back together and running.”
“The most important thing for this town is that every citizen has a place to live,” stated Pass Christian Fire Chief and Emergency Operations Control for the town Dwight Gordon. “Although we have a way to recover, most everything is normal where people can get back to work.”
Residents and officials throughout the city have applauded and sent regards to the power companies (Mississippi Power and Coast Electric) for their tireless work to improve the utilities for everyone. There are still a small portion of residents without power usage in rural areas, but the linemen of these power companies are securing the lines along with street signs.
Mayor McDermott did not report any cleanup rate, but the Harrison County Supervisors approved an estimated cost of $11 million for cleanup.
Debris removal and damages assessments will be reported by the next meeting of the Pass Christian Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, November 17, 2020.