Some silver linings appearing in ravaged Gulf Coast region
ShellLanding General Manager Kenny Hughes has spent all of his 43 years in Biloxi, Miss.He saw Hurricane Camille come through the South when he was 7 years old,butstill can't seem to stop using the word "surreal" when describing the destructionHurricane Katrina unleashed on his hometown.
But no matter how bad things are or were, Hughes said things are coming around. To drive that point home, Shell Landing in nearby Gautier will be reopening its golf course on Sept. 28.
"The only thing the TV shows is the absolute devastation, which is understandable," Hughes said. "But you can be in Biloxi on the beach and(see the damage) and go three or four blocks and not even know there wasa storm."
The devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina was so immense and unprecedented it left many outsiders with the sensation that the entire South from the tip of Florida to New Orleans has been wiped out.
Shell Landing, however, has a slightly higher elevation than some parts of Biloxi, and managed to get through the storm with little damage.
"Just a few of the Shell Landing homes were damaged and we had to clear some debris," Hughes said. "The main problem was that all of our golf carts went underwater. So now, all we're waiting on to re-open is the new carts."
Other parts of the Gulf Coast are also promising a quick return. On its Web site - www.golfcoast.com - the Gulf Coast Golf Association has announced that at least 75 percent of the golf courses on Mississippi's Gulf Coast will be open by the end of the year.
In presenting the association's plan to combat Katrina's damage, the organization made a plea for golfers to not forget the region.
"The coast needs golfers to consider visiting the coast for the firsttime and those who were planning on visiting to not cancel their plans, but to consider bringing more people to the coast to enjoy the beautifulweather and the Gulf Coast people," the statement said.
The GCGA has posted a list of its courses and when they will re-open. Some courses, however, such as the Bridges Golf Resort ("It was completely submerged from what I hear," Hughes said) and Grand Bear will be closed for some time yet.
Hughes said that the federal response for Biloxi has been strong, with hundreds of trailers being moved in as impromptu housing for those who were displaced. Still, an issue for Biloxi would be what happens with the casinos.The TravelGolf.com team would liketo express our support for the people of New Orleans and other coastalareas devastated by the storm. We encourage readers to help supportthe American Red Cross with a generous monetarydonation.
Some of the casinos have pledged to rebuild, and the Beau Rivage has already started. Others will most likely not re-build, like Treasure Bay, which reportedly had no insurance. Still others may be hampered by insurance companies, which might be reluctant to insure the casinos, which are on barges.
"Imperial Palace in Biloxi is open and the Palace Casino will be openin 90 days," Hughes said. "The MGM hotel is there but the casino is goneso we'll see if they re-open.
"Those are the million-dollar questions that we'd like to know the answers to, because a place to stay is very important for our business,"Hughes said.
There is no ignoring the dire situation for New Orleans. Chuck Cuff, director of business development at Gulf Coast Golf Tours said, however, that golf courses in Louisiana are still mostly in playing shape.
The majority of courses in South Florida have already re-opened or plan to soon, while the majority of the Robert Trent Jones Jr. Trail courses also escaped with little more than minor damage.
Cuff said that after some tough times in the past, the Gulf Shore region of Alabama escaped a large part of Katrina's wrath.
"The Gulf Shores areas got hurt bad with Ivan last year but got through this a lot better," Cuff said. "Mobile is in fine shape and most the courses that were closed there have reopened."
While the damage that Katrina did is unmistakable, Hughes and others are quick to point out that not all is lost, and that what is lost should return.
"We've all been affected. My brother lost his house and had to hang on to the eaves not to get washed away," said Hughes, who was amazed to find his own home still standing. "The scope of it from New Orleans all the way to Mobile really is amazing.
"But they said it would take six weeks to get the power up again and it took two. I've never seen so many electric trucks in my life," Hughessaid. "I definitely believe that two years from now, maybe less, the Gulf Coast will better than ever."
September 27, 2005