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Rolling with Katrina's Punches in Waveland

Linda Smith, with husband Ronald Smith, says she'll leave Waveland as soon as a relative arrives with a car.
Gisele Grayson, NPR
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Linda Smith, with husband Ronald Smith, says she'll leave Waveland as soon as a relative arrives with a car.

A small city of tents and trailers has sprung up in Waveland, Miss., where Hurricane Katrina destroyed many homes and disrupted many lives.

Susan Saynamont is living there with her children and her elderly parents, sharing a pair of tents. Her rented house is flooded and the fast-food place where she worked was wiped out by the storm.

They're far from alone. Other families have also taken up residence across the trash-strewn parking lot of a ruined grocery store. So far, no one has made them move.

Their immediate option is to live in temporary shelters the government has set up, but for one reason or another don't want to.

Mary Peterson says there was too much drinking and vandalism at the shelters, and she didn't want her two small children exposed to that. So she's staying at the tent city with her boys, her husband and other relatives. They got a big break a few days earlier, when a man from California gave them a camper to live in.

That man was Mark Davis, a contractor from California who watched the disaster on TV and then decided to come help. He's living in a tent. While he stays to help out, locals hope to escape.

"This was home, but it don't even look like home no more," says Linda Ellen Smith. "It's like we're in a real bad dream, and not even in America no more and you just can't wake up. It's awful."

Smith is waiting for a relative who is supposed to bring her a car so she can leave... even though she has no idea where she'll go.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.