11 January 2008


Just four years after the so-named 1947 Hurricane, Mississippi writer Hodding Carter described “The Gulf Coast Country” [as] “a soft, near-tropic abode of chameleon sea and white sand.” Other natural elements in his description--“the rustling beauty of tall pines and moss-drenched water oaks and redolent magnolias”--contribute to the soft breeziness of quotidian life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. But, the gentle sea lapping the Coast periodically changes more than just its color and rises up devastatingly like an angry dragon--twice after his observation, by hurricanes Camille and Katrina--and surges and slaps and tugs at the foundations of coastal life. It is as true now as it was then that the Coast lies in a hurricane region.

The Coast comprises a cultural landscape exhibiting traits of the wider Gulf of Mexico culture region overlaid upon a natural region on the seaward edge of the Gulf-Atlantic Coastal Plain. Post-Katrina recovery along the entire coast has not been a time of large-scale relocation and risk-reduction. Instead, beach-front properties have been rebuilt in Pascagoula, Ocean Springs, and other cities. Casinos have been repaired and Biloxi, Gulfport, and cities westward are experiencing construction of high-rise condominiums. With global climate change and concomitant rise in sea level and dire predictions of tropical storms of greater intensity, rational thought is disquieted concerning the future of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and its cities built nearly at sea level. It is, after all, a low-lying coastal region facing a warm, capricious chameleonlike sea.

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