Hurricane watching, Aug. 29, 2005

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2005

If you're anything like me (an old fuddy duddy with nothing better to do)

then you were glued to the TV Sunday switching back and forth between the Weather Channel, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC tracking the progress of Hurricane Katrina.

I suppose it's the prospect of catastrophe and devastation that makes such programming interesting, not unlike straining your neck as you drive by a car wreck.

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While it appeared Katrina was going to zero in on the Crescent City, sometime while I slept it shifted a bit to the east and this morning it was the Mississippi Gulf Coast that was expected to bear the brunt of the storm.

As a former resident of Mobile, I've spent some time on that area of the Gulf Coast. The company that owns The Hopewell News, Lancaster Management Inc., which I worked for about 10 years, also owns a twice weekly paper in Bay St. Louis, Miss., called the Sea Coast Echo.

This morning, it looked like Katrina was headed right for that little town.

I spent some time in Bay St. Louis while working for the company. It's a beautiful little village. The former publisher of the Echo, Ellis Cuevas, was a friend. Ellis had worked at the Echo since the lat 1960s. Whenever we were together the conversation would invariably turn to Camille, which came ashore at Pas Christian, about a dozen miles or so east of Bay St. Louis.

On Camille's 25th anniversary, Ellis published a diary he had kept during the storm.

We were out of power here at the News-Herald for a week when category 1 Hurricane Isabel hit a couple years ago. I could not imagine going through the type of devastation Camille brought and managing to publish a newspaper.

Today, Ellis is the publisher emeritus of the Echo, having turned the reins over to another friend of mine, Randy Ponder, about five years ago.

I'm praying for those guys this morning and their families, but things don't look good for their community.

There were a lot of comparisons to Camille, naturally, over the weekend. Camille was one of only three category 5 storms to strike the continental U.S., and Katrina looked similar. I didn't hear any mention, though, of the devastation Camille wreaked in Virginia. While the property loss was likely greater on the Gulf Coast, the biggest loss of life was here in Virginia. Camille stalled out over the western part of the state, dropping something like 30 inches of rain, prompting flooding that killed more than 100 people in the Old Dominion. The point is that this is not just a Gulf Coast story. It could have huge impact all along its path.

Great story by reporter Aaron Applegate in Sunday's Pilot on Suffolk developer Mickey Garcia. Be sure to check it out if you get the opportunity.