James E. Miller
House before Katrina.
House one month after Katrina.
House ten months after Katrina.
House three years after Katrina.
Which Jim Miller?
It was a year of loss. In July we evacuated for hurricane Dennis to our
backup house in Diamondhead. When we returned to Gulfport we received word
that our daughter Debbie had died. That was
the big loss for the year. Katrina followed (too soon), demanding our time
and effort. Katrina was always a major problem that was going to work out
Our house in Gulfport
had two feet of water on the second floor, the wind took the
roof in the greatroom, and a large
chunk of the chimney
(6'x4'x2.5') ended up on the kitchen
counter. Someone's dock busted out the second story deck entrance to the bedroom. The Diamondhead backup did much better. The three large pines
that were blown down mostly missed the house and the storm surge would have had to have been at least 4 inches higher to have taken
Tentative plans are to level the Gulfport house and rebuild (elevate). We enjoyed that house and the backyard. My office at school was in one of many buildings to receive
damage and there was a major scramble to move the campus to a new location in order to salvage the Fall semester. We pulled it off even though everyone had to deal with the storm. If you didn't lose your house
then you probably had long term guests that did. One of the things that was done at school that I thought was an interesting (pure therapy) move was to encourage everyone to write about a Katrina experience. My
offering (this is not great
documented the first trip back to the house and the search for our 13 year old Gray Cat. At Diamondhead, my
became a companion for Gray Cat. "Yard art" that had appeared at the destroyed house was claimed as a self
Diane and I have been pushing to rebuild. They started taking the house
down 3/25/06 and finished up 3/27/06. We
kept the chimney. This is a very slow and
frustrating process. The first major problem is getting plans drawn for
an elevated house where the elevation has not been determined. That
process started in January. 8/17 We were able to get a set of plans that had enough detail in them
we could start getting cost estimates. We guessed the elevation would
at 22 feet but a newspaper article 8/25 stated that it was going to be
22.5 feet. I've marked some elevations on the
chimney so that we can get a
feel for how high that really is. Project still alive with cost the next
major consideration. Official word 9/5/06 is that the elevation will
be 22.5 feet. Now we can finish the drawings and get meaningful cost
figures. 9/11/06 Rumor of the day dealt with insurance for projected
house and we had to move quickly to stay out of the wind pool (the
projected $1,000 per month would have been a deal breaker). 10/6 Fifty
days after plans went out for bids the first cut on
building costs are in and the house is "mostly dead." Time to make a
backup plan. 10/15 It is now 412 days
since Katrina hit. Diane and I see a sign for an open house on a new home
in Long Beach, look it over and make an offer on it. 10/16 We agree to the
counter offer to our counter offer. 10/26 We close on the house. 11/1 We
have moved in. 12/6 Paperwork/details on house purchase
completed. On Christmas day we declared
Katrina essentially over. Interesting times.
Looks like Katrina is not over. Purchasing furniture is a pain in
this environment and this introduces a new phase in working with the
insurance company. Because of the flood vs. wind issue only the furniture
in certain rooms is covered by insurance but we need furniture for a
complete house. The insurance company (State Farm) works with us. December the official FEMA maps are made
the city of Gulfport now says the build back height is 15 feet. 12/6/07 We
find out the build back height is 16 feet. There are still traces of Katrina mud on Christmas decorations.
Katrina makes tax time a challenge. We continue to do things to make
the new house better with most of the
effort going into yard work. The chimney on the slab had become dangerous so we took it down. We followed with
a "slab" party where a couple dozen folks came out to watch the boat parade. A Christmas surprise was
Christmas eve. A quilt" made by one of Diane's
grandmothers and that we
was non-salvageable appeared. A niece had worked with the quilting society of Georgia to
clean it. Kind of nice.
when a nonreplaceable loss is reversed.
Spring term I get back in the classroom. Gray cat is doing fine a year after a life threatning stroke.
Four years after Katrina a quilt made by my mother is returned after a salvage effort.
Gray cat doing fine. February purchase small completely furnished villa in
of Dadeville AL). The picture of the house before Katrina used in this
web page arrives in the mail 7/17/10.
Gray cat seems to have lost hearing but otherwise quite healthy for a
year old. Slab removed and lot for sale. Surprise salvage was a large
cotta planter that must have washed on to the property during Katrina.
4/2 Lost Gray Cat. Work has started on repairing the building where
my office was when Katrina hit. Traded villa in StillWaters for a house on
the water also in StillWaters. My "to do" list
got a lot longer.
We did some modifications to the StillWater house and completed furnishing
it. Starting to spend alot of time up there. Doing some traveling. New
places included the Azores, Australia, New Zealand and Copenhagen.
Looks like new address will become 58 Mallard Lane, Dadeville, AL 36853.
Surprise for July was Chinese Drywall discovered in Long Beach house that
was for sale. Will try to avoid the apparent $200,000 loss. November: Can
hold loss to $150,000. December: Interesting development - might not have
Against really bad odds we got agreement from the drywall manufacturers to
remediate the house and then a total stranger used this website to find me
and make an offer on the house. Drywall loss now looks like $25,000 and
a lot of aggravation. On the same day the contract on the house arrived a
contract for the Gulfport lot appeared. Still finding traces of Katrina
Year off to a good start. Very nice vacation to Peru followed by cruise
that added Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. House and lot sold. Time to
declare Katrina over. Still no reason to think you ever get over the
death of a
child. December turns up a Katrina damaged coin collection and more
Katrina mud on Christmas decorations.
January brought a cruise on the Oasis with stops in Hati, Jamaica and
Mexico. May was a land tour of Ireland followed by a cruise with ports in
Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and France. A
week in North Carolina was followed by Panama Canal trip that added
Guatemala, Nicaragua and
Costa Rica to our list of countries visited.
Katrina mud found on picture that had been displayed for the previous 12
years. A six month lease on a rental in Diamondhead MS gave us a little
more time closer to where our son and his family are
located. Completed a five day trip to New York (sang at Lincoln Center)
a second trip to Alaska consisting of an interior tour plus a costal
cruise. Diane and I are now singing in three active groups. 12/13 discover a 104
piece souvenir spoon collection that had been my mothers and had had made
it through Katrina.
The year is starting off with a remodeling project that should give a
couple months of being locked out of the kitchen. Singing performances are
schedueled for Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center. A cruise late summer
should add Croatia to our list of 45 countries visited.
The Lake Martin Backyard
A magnificent adult Bald Eagle hunted this part of the lake for a
couple days and it became time to start documenting this back yard. Canada
geese, mallards, great herons and crows can be seen on most days of the
year as can squirrel and chipmunks. This is not going to be as easy as I
first thought because there are lots of ducks I can't
identify. Deer are starting to be a problem by determing what and where I
can plant things. Caught and released a black rat snake that my first
estimate on length was eight feet. StillWater AL is similar to Diamondhead
MS. Beaver attacted a neighbor's dock. Bear have been reported. 12/5/18
Eagle is back and landed in a tree 100 ft. from the house. Deer in the
and two pair of Hooded Merganser in the lake that has been lowered 7 ft.
from full pool.
The Gulfport Backyard
The backyard is not unique to the coast of Mississippi but perhaps
different enough to be interesting. It offers one of the best
locations for viewing the Christmas boat
parade (DeckAfterKatrina) and that has
always been a decent excuse for a party. Fishing is the primary diversion
there is usually a line out while activities such as mowing the grass are
going on. Bayou Bernard has yielded
large mouth bass,
catfish, (stonecat, hardhead, gafftop,
redear sunfish (that's "red" ear or
pin fish (good for bait and not much else),
pompano (seriously small), does jelly fish count?,
needle nose gar,
short nose gar,
and a couple eels.
Crabbing is difficult because of otters. Other
creatures that have been
spotted (but not caught) include alligator, red? fox (1/19/02), nutria,
possom, raccoon, and
course squirrel. Water fowl include anhinga that look sort of like a
cormorant and are locally refered to as "snake birds", osprey, king
fishers, green heron, great blue herons, blue
herons, yellow-crowned night-herons, egrets (cattle, snowy, and great),
brown pelicans, gulls (wide variety),
mallards, Canada geese,
least terns, and black skimmers. The cold snap the first week in
October/2000 brought 67 great egrets to a group of pine trees on the
other side of the bayou for one of those picture perfect moments. The
two surprises Spring of 2001 were a two week period where the only
thing that was getting caught was channel cat in the 24 to 30 inch
range and a wierd sight of a group of 24 anhinga that were making a
sweep of the bayou. Ten minutes after seeing the birds swim down the
bayou a group of 54 came flying back. The most of this type of bird
that I had seen previously in the area was three. A four-foot gator
was spotted and became the smallest seen in the past eight years. (Big
one was pushing 12 feet.) Fall of 2001 has turned up my first otter in
the yard, my first gafftop catfish (a really weird looking
fish), a 52 inch needle nose gar, and a 21.5-inch speckled trout. The
day before the Super Bowl turned up four mallards in the yard and a
32.5-inch blue catfish that took forever to
clean. The Christmas break 2002 produced a
blue cat and another 52 inch gar. New for
summer of 2003 was an ibis and a stand of cardinal flowers. Fall 2004 a large blue heron
stood in the yard waiting for bait fish to jump in the yard. When we
figured out what he was doing we did likewise and fished with live
bait. 2/12/05 The water was like glass and the reflections in first
light with the reds and purples was kind of neat. The next time I
looked out there was something going on. Thirteen pelicans and
approximately 30 anhinga were feeding while three blue herons flew 10
feet off the water like planes protecting ships. They were joined by a
small green heron. The next morning was more of the same but this time
there were 15 pelicans that mostly sat, 3 blue herons that flew
protection, 3 mallards that swam up stream and a flotilla of anhingas
(58 by actual count) that swam downstream with no diving or splashing in a
that was never more than four abreast. 5/23/05 First double sighting
of gators (6.5'and 8'). As they swam toward each other the double
strikes on two lines turned out to be the same fish hooked twice.
After landing the fish I had a chance to watch the gators (they never
came closer than 50 feet to each other) but was distracted by a large
turtle that lumbered out of an azalea to bite the fish once and then
retreat. 8/29/05 Katrina. 8/25/06 A number of folks are reporting
melons (gourd shaped watermelons) and we have a
good crop growing next to the slab. The thing I have enjoyed most
about the yard is that on any day I can see something that I have
never seen before. Today that was a place in the yard where I could stand
and get (because of the stuff Katrina took
out) my first view of all of the 200+ feet of land adjacent to the
bayou. 9/17/06 Persimmons are getting ripe as are the last of the
Katrina melons. 12/26/08 Chimney is now down and the lot looks good.
I was working this morning (with fishing lines out) and heard a crash
in the water which usually means a pelican. But this time it was too loud.
As I moved into position to see where the bird had landed a glance at the wave moving away from the impact spot
triggered the thought "200 pound pelican?" Now I was confused and the
water didn't look right. Just then
the largest dolphin I have ever seen rolled up exposing it's entire length, followed immediately
with a second surfacing that exposed another equally large dolphin doing
a synchronized movement. A third
smaller dolphin was spotted up stream. 1/23/09 Picked up a 26" - 8
lb. red fish. 1/24/09 Single 16" trout. 3/16/10 Single 35.5" Blue Cat and
first sighting of a pair of pied-billed grebes. 6/7/11 Five osprey at same
time. 7/22/11 44" needlenose gar on light tackle. 10/1/11
Single large black drum. 1/6/12 First flounder. 5/30/12 First Spanish
Mackerel. 2/13/13 27 inch Blue Cat.
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James E. Miller