Here's a report from someone who made the trip to Hattiesburg on Friday. Hattiesburg and environs appear to have been hit with significant hardship, but not utter disaster.
I'm posting this because the narrative is informative and interesting, and different from what you find in the newspaper or on TV. Since the post is long, I'm highlighting passages with interesting facts that people short on time might want to see. (Note: names have been redacted and altered for the sake of anonymity).
Took a load of stuff over to Mississippi on Friday. Returned on Saturday. Some thoughts and observations.
It is not clear why we did it. In Hattiesburg by the time we got there, two or three lots full of electric generators were available. Inflated prices, of course, but probably not much more than we spent going over. We did bring with us some expertise in connecting them, and that is valuable. R seemed genuinely pleased with his (new 7.8kW, electric starter, woo-woo), but I am not sure how he will manage the gasoline that it takes to run it. We ran the generator all night Friday. It ran his whole house without a problem including the a/c and water heater. So Saturday morning, we had hot showers in a cool house and felt good about life. We got the other one (my old one, 5.5kW) hooked up at J's house out in the country, but we couldn't get the a/c to start up. Probably some relay messed up. He doesn't have water out there either, so even with the generator, he is not likely to stay out there.
Stuff was available, but the lines were long. Gas lines were 1.5 hours on Saturday and that at the stations that rationed to 10 gallons. But the grocery stores were open and food was there. It wasn't as bad in Hattiesburg as it was in Gulf Breeze last year after Ivan.
We left most all of the stuff that we took, but not because they really needed it. When we provisioned on Thursday, we had not had communications with them and didn't know what to expect. However, by Thursday afternoon, it was clear that the only things that they really needed were the two generators, fuel, and vodka, and we had that. All the canned food, lamps, candles, peanut butter, etc., was not really needed (until they get hit next week).
The fuel mission was encumbered by the run on gas that occurred in SC and GA on Wednesday and spilled over into Friday. We were able to buy fuel all the way to Mississippi, but the biggest problem was that on Thursday, there were no fuel cans left in the upstate of SC. I ended up buying 16 one-gallon cans to round out the supplies that we took. So we ended up paying $5 per gallon, plus the cost of getting it there. On the flip side, most of the diesel that we took and left was farm-use, untaxed. So we got a deal there.
E was a sport to lend his truck to the mission and a real gent to go himself. I would have enjoyed having F along, but W went and was a champ.
We didn't drive south of Hattiesburg and it was clear that the devastation was increasing at an increasing rate. The clean up rescue seemed to be going along efficiently. First reports on Wednesday said that we couldn't get to Hattiesburg. By Friday the main roads were clear, but not cleaned up. Open to travel with the least possible effort. My guess is that we could have gotten near Gulfport, though thankfully we were not asked to do that.
Many odd things observed along the way. On Friday there were only 3 army vehicles observed. Returning on Saturday we saw numerous convoys. This is all coming out now in the news and apparently the governor of LA is mostly to blame.
There were a few reports of looting and lawlessness in Mississippi, but very few. Everyone that we talked to in Mississippi and all the reports we got indicated that a large supply of personal weapons and a shoot-to-kill directive from the Mississippi governor more or less ensured that only the people who were supposed to be in places were there. J was/is living in one of his stores because he has power and water there. His neighbor, a Subway store owner, is doing the same (and has an ice machine). Some fellow happened to walk unexpectedly into the Subway, which wasn't open. B immediately told the guy to "Get the **%% out," and then grabbed his .223 military rifle, jammed a 60 round clip in, picked up another and started loading it up as he chased the guy off his property.
Not that there is hatefulness. A large black lady came into J's store while we were all standing around Saturday morning and asked to use the restroom, which J obliged. She was in the gas line out front and underestimated the situation.
I saw a picture in the paper about a store owner in NO who had painted the following on his store window: "Don't think about it. I am sleeping inside with a big dog, an ugly woman, 2 shotguns, and a claw hammer." This inspired us to put out our own sign Friday night, since we had a noisy generator and the only porch light in the neighborhood: "We have shotguns & .357's. Go ahead. Make our day."
I wanted to go further south but our schedule and situation just wasn't right. I don't like lines and we were set to get in and out on our own resources. Even so, the power of nature was all too apparent. There were fields of pine trees all snapped about 15-20 feet up. It looked like god came down with an over-sized bushhog. Mississippi is so full of pine trees so those were the most apparent in the felling. The big ones just come over. The smaller ones snap.
We decided that nature specializes. Tornadoes have the rights on the trailer boxes and hurricanes respect that. We did not see a trailer in shambles and we saw several that were surrounded by downed trees. On the other hand, we saw one brick house that had only one tree nearby. Nice house. Of course that one tree cleaved it. This is all 80 miles inland.
Truck after truck on the highway was just like us going in. Loaded up with obvious relief stuff. We started tallying up license plates. Mostly from neighboring states: GA and TN, but some from further off. Coming out the next day, there was an odd thing. Several trucks with Louisiana plates and a couple with Mississippi plates were coming out with us, but they had generators in the truck beds. In one case, I hypothesized that they had ridden it out until they could get out and that was what they were doing. I said this because they had some furniture, though precious little. E was unconvinced and then we saw these other trucks that were just loaded with what would seem to be rescue stuff: generators, chain saws, fuel cans. Our final thought was that they were driving far enough to get fuel to go back in and were not willing to leave the generators down there. We never found any of them to talk to and didn't see them past Tuscaloosa, so that was probably it.
The clean up will take a while. It always does, but life goes on. All family and friends in Hattiesburg are fine and moving back toward normal albeit at a slow pace. New Orleans is a mess largely because they have to figure out how to stop the flooding and then prevent it. That is a big problem, but my guess is that on the basis of pure destruction, the Mississippi coast sustained more damage.