PORTLAND (AP) – Nearly a year since Hurricane Katrina’s destruction in Mississippi forced Tommy Longo and his family to seek refuge in Maine, the family is back in its beachside hometown of Waveland.

But life in the Gulf of Mexico town is not the same as it was before Aug. 29, 2005.

The Longos’ former house is just a shell and the six family members are now living in a 30-foot-long trailer. Things aren’t much better in the rest of Waveland, where Tommy Longo is mayor.

Only 2,500 of Waveland’s estimated 7,000-plus residents have returned to their town, where a 35-foot-high storm surge swept everything from bungalows to Georgian-style mansions off their foundations and scattered their contents. About 95 percent of the homes were damaged or destroyed.

For six months, the Longos, who have children ages 12 to 3, stayed in a cottage in Boothbay Harbor. The cottage is owned by an Augusta family. The Longos were drawn to Maine because Marcia, Longo’s wife, has a brother and sister living there.

After Katrina, thousands of volunteers from all over the country came to Waveland to clear 15-foot high walls of debris and rebuild homes. But without church groups and civic organizations, the city cannot come back, said Betty Robinson, the city’s volunteer coordinator.

The Longos are waiting for grant money so they can rebuild their home. They are looking to rebuild by Christmas, or Jan. 1 at the latest.

“You need to set goals,” said Marcia Longo, 53. “Otherwise it gets depressing.”

Marcia Longo is teaching second-graders at a school that is the product of a merger between two schools since the hurricane.

“I wish I could go back to Maine,” she said.

Tommy Longo acknowledged the frustration many people in town feel in trying to rebuild their lives and community.

He does not deny that he courts publicity for his devastated city.

“They can’t get their hands on the president or the governor,” Longo said. “The one person who’s tangible is me.”



Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.