Tom Ross: Katrina still impacts Steamboat families |

Tom Ross: Katrina still impacts Steamboat families

— Charles Cadrecha still has an ocean view from his condo on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The only problem is the condo has been reduced to a concrete pad. He’s still making mortgage payments on it while rebuilding his life in Tampa, Fla.

Cadrecha’s daughter, Gina, lives and works in Steamboat Springs. She spent the last week of August 2005 fretting over relatives who were about to be caught in the destructive path of Hurricane Katrina. “It seems like just yesterday,” she said.

Gina’s mother and father lived separately in the picturesque fishing port of Pass Christian, Miss. The town’s historic district was known for antebellum homes surrounded by gnarled oak trees hung with heavy moss. The homes, the history, all of that is gone.

Gina has been back to the landscape of her childhood memories only once since the hurricane in May. The passage of 12 months hasn’t resolved the mix of emotions she feels over the devastation of the town she once knew so well.

Cadrecha (pronounced Cadreesha) said her brother, Michael, still wades into the ocean in front of where his father’s condo stood, to fish from the beach. In order to do so, Michael must step over the household debris deposited by the storm.

Charles Cadrecha, whose family has had a furniture business for generations, is a sales representative for several well-known lines.

Michael Cadrecha found refuge in Steamboat last winter and enrolled briefly at Steamboat Springs High School. However, he returned to Mississippi in January to rejoin his longtime classmates. They finished their senior year in temporary classrooms erected in nearby DeLisle, Miss. Today, he’s attending the Jefferson Davis Campus of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Gulfport.

Gina’s mother, Mary, continues to live in Steamboat and is contemplating a permanent move to Colorado’s Front Range, Gina said.

Luke Walker’s octogenarian maternal grandparents continue to live in their longtime New Orleans home.

Mim and Gene Brumbaugh’s house is in suburban New Orleans, on the west bank of the Mississippi. It is about 20 minutes from the Superdome where so many people sought refuge from the hurricane that crashed ashore Aug. 29, 2005.

Walker’s father, Winston, grew up in northern Louisiana. His mother, Cindy, was home from college in 1969 when Hurricane Camille battered New Orleans.

Walker said his grandparents’ home was damaged by three or four trees that were blown onto it.

The home did not suffer water damage and was repairable.

Gene Brumbaugh continues his work as an oil exploration consultant.

Although the Brumbaughs’ house is livable, Walker’s grandparents are contemplating a move to Pensacola, Fla., to be closer to friends.

Ironically, if they make the move, they won’t be out of the path of future hurricanes. They already own a condo in the Pensacola area but haven’t occupied it since it was damaged by Tropical Storm Ivan in 2004.

Mike and Colleen Miller were also among the lucky ones whose property survived the storm. A year after Hurricane Katrina breached the levies in New Orleans, their home near the east bank of the Mississippi River has been repaired and is occupied by tenants.

“Our house has a new roof,” Mike Miller said. “A big tree fell on it and it was without power for a month. New Orleans is still a mess.”

The Millers live in Steamboat Springs where they own and operate Sun Pie’s Bistro. They spent two years of their lives running Cajun Mike’s a half block off Canal Street.

The Millers’ home at 1310 Dante St. in New Orleans was built in the 1930s of lumber from a Mississippi river barge. About a quarter of a mile from the river, it was erected on four-foot stilts.

Miller figures he was lucky because the house is about a foot above sea level thanks to silt left behind by lesser floods. Although the levees broke in New Orleans, arterial streets close to the Millers’ neighborhood channeled the water away from their block.

Miller is somewhat skeptical about grand plans to rebuild a “new,” New Orleans.

“There’s no way to re-create what was there,” he said. “I expect it will come back naturally in its own weird way.”

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