Town’s recovery a long way off
October 2, 2005
PEARLINGTON, Miss. – If you want to help this community, don’t clean out your closet. You can clean out your garage, your toolshed or even your wallet, but don’t clear your conscience by sending old clothes. One month after being awash in floodwaters, Pearlington and the surrounding communities are awash in clothes. They’ve poured in from throughout the country in great enough numbers to provide for all of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, not just the homeless.Clothes were left to the elements at a Red Cross relief center in the town of Pass Christian. They were heaped and boxes and scattered on the ground. They reeked of mold and will soon be part of the berms of curbside debris waiting to be hauled to landfills.Staci Pace, the director of a relief camp at Pearlington’s elementary school, has scrambled to hang clothes before they rot at the makeshift distribution center in the gymnasium. “Please, no more clothes,” she said. There is an ongoing need for canned and nonperishable food, Pace said, and cleaning supplies are in high demand. Mops, brooms, buckets, paper towels and disinfectant leave the distribution center in Pearlington in a steady stream. The owners of the homes that are structurally sound must make them habitable. That means getting rid of several inches of mud, then scrubbing down every surface that remains in the home.Tools to clean timber and other debris are also in high demand right now. People want shovels, rakes, axes and chain saws as they get a green light from insurance adjusters to clear their property.But eventually those needs will evolve. Before long, the biggest demand will be for construction materials as people rebuild. Virtually nothing is salvageable for square miles in the communities of Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian and Pearlington. Other houses need massive renovations.Eventually the best way to help people – although not necessarily the easiest – will be to drive around trailers filled with Sheetrock, two-by-fours and other construction materials. Business is already booming at Lowe’s and other sellers of hardware and lumber.Camille Lichenstein noted that washers, dryers and kitchen appliances get snapped up from stores as quickly as they appear. Most of all, Pearlington and the rest of southern Mississippi need something no one can give.”We need time,” said Tim Smith, whose family has done what it can to make their house and property in Pearlington habitable. They’ve pitched a tent, strung a tarp and cleared one tiny corner of the house, where they sleep. They are waiting for FEMA to deliver a temporary trailer, and they’re waiting to see how their insurance shakes out: It will cover damage from wind but not from flooding. They suffered both.Tim and Susan Smith plan to rebuild in the town where both grew up, but they know that will require time.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.