As we flew in over the Gulf I could see snatches of the devastation — some downed trees, blue tarps covering roofs, some piles of debris — but it wasn't 'til we piled into the shuttle that the extent of the damage came into focus. At first, as we drove away from the airport, it was mainly boarded up store windows, piles of twisted metal and lumber, and some shattered billboards, but then we went into the restricted zone right along the beach.
The van driver warned us not to take pictures — officially frowned on by the Red Cross for sensitivity/privacy reasons — so I had to take it in with my eyes. It's like a bomb hit the place. The road along the coast used to be lined with houses, hotels, and restaurants. Most of them are completely gone, right down to the foundations.
Some images: each street address we passed was marked with a spray-painted address and the residents' family name. Some included messages like "all OK" or "we'll be back." The trees, which look like they were once majestic and beautiful, are just gnarled limbs, most of which are covered in wind-blown clothing. It's an eerie sight, these grayish-brown trunks and branches dotted with colorful T-shirts and underwear. When we passed a river, I saw fishing boats and sailboats had been tossed around like toys. A couple of big boats were actually resting in a knot of tree branches, 20 feet off the ground. Awe-inspiring.
We got here just a little too late for orientation, so I'll head "home," which is the Navy SeaBee base in Gulfport. Then I gotta get up good & early for 8 AM orientation, where I'll be assigned my duties for the next three weeks.
The rumor is that there are laundry services available.