*To our readers: Today's Sun Herald is being delivered in the afternoon because of Hurricane Katrina. A team of Sun Herald staffers traveled to Columbus, Ga., to assemble and print today's paper. The papers were then transported back to South Mississippi. The Sun Herald will resume a normal delivery schedule as quickly as it can. --The Editors.
BILOXI --- Hurricane Katrina devasted South Mississippi on Monday with a force not seen since Camille 36 years ago, sweeping aside multimillion-dollar casinos, burying the beach highway and killing at least 50 people in Harrison County.
"This," said Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway, "is our tsunami."
At least 50 are confirmed dead in Gulfport and Biloxi.
Katrina raged ashore in Mississippi at dawn and terrorized the Coast until winds subided after 3 p.m., leaving massive damage in her wake. Monday night, communications were down and transportation systems demolished. Katrina also crippled medical services.
Beleaguered emergency personnel awaited reinforcements from the federal government and other states to shore up assistance.
"We are still in the searach-and-rescue mode," Holloway said. It will be days before the costs of Katrina, in lives and property, are known.
Katrina's tidal surge swept away bridges that had linked the three Coast counties.
Along the waterfront, the storm surge obliterated businesses, homes, community landmarks and condominiums. It swept away the concrete Eight Flags display marketing the Gulfport-Biloxi boundary on the beach.
Countless treasures washed from homes joining streams of debris that settled 5 feet high on residential streets off the beach.
New sets of stairs to nowhere joined those Camille left when she washed away waterfront mansions on Aug. 17, 1969. Katrina will forever be compared to Camille in many ways. Camille cost the Coast 144 lives and more than $6.5 billion in property damage in current dollars.
A revitalized and growing Mississippi Coast had even more to lose. In Biloxi, Holloway said at least five casinos are out of commission.
Grand Casino Biloxi washed across U.S. 90. Treasure Bay's pirate ship was beached.At least three other casinos were out of commission, Holloway said.
Beau Rivage still stood, while Hard Rock Casino, scheduled to open in early September, was heavily damaged. The signature guitar, said to be the world's largest, stood.
"Highway 90 is destroyed," Holloway said. "It's something like I've never seen before. I saw a disaster. Water did not get this high for Camille."
Most of the residents who lost their lives were on Point Cadet, at the southeastern tip of Biloxi's peninsula.
In Gulfport, the storm surge crossed the CSX railroad tracks, a line old-timers say Camille did not cross.
Hancock and Jackson counties didn't fare any better. Communications were all but severed during Katrina.
Before telephone contact was lost Monday morning, Hancock County officials reported that a foot of water swamped their Emergency Operations Center, which sits 30 feet above sea level. The back of the Hancock County courthouse, where the center is located, gave way.
"Thirty-five people swam out of their Emergency Operations Center with life jackets on," said Christopher Cirillow, Harrison County's Emergency Medical Services director.
"We haven't heard from them. The only person we can raise on the radio is the sheriff in his car."
Jackson County's Emergency Operations Center also began to disintergrate shortly after Katrina raged ashore. The roof was peeling off by 7:30 a.m., forcing officials to evacuate to the courthouse across the street.
As soon as the wind subsided, looters struck.They stole cars, radios, liquor, furniture, generators and anything else they could find.
A furious Harrison County Sheriff George Payne was heard on the police scanner telling his deputies to make room in the jail.
In neighborhoods, shell-shocked residents burst into tears and embraced, consoling one another.
The atmosphere, at times, was surreal.
Brothers Jesus and David Diaz walked up Biloxi's St. Charles Avenue in a daze.
"What are you looking for?" they were asked.
One of them said, "Our house."