Geikins remember Gulfport, Biloxi

August 29, 2006

Albany -- One year ago, storm surge as high as 30 feet covered Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi. Residents returned to find their homes and businesses ripped from their foundations and piled high blocks from the beachfront they once lined.

Thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees came to Georgia after the storm, and many stayed to rebuild their lives here. Like Matt and Janice Geikin, a young married couple who rode out Katrina in their home near Biloxi.  

This anniversary of the storm that changed their lives brings back many painful memories.  Matt and Janice Geikin shot a home soon after they rode out Hurricane Katrina in their home near Biloxi. "It's all gone, all of it," said a tearful Janice Geikin.      

"It just doesn't seem like that much time has passed since the storm. I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and it never actually happened. My town is still going to be there," Matt Geikin said.      

One year ago the Geikins decided not to evacuate, despite all warnings. "We saw our back porch get ripped off and thrown down the street, and we started to see trees fall, and eventually I saw the flood waters go so high I was afraid my wife's car was going to be submerged," said Matt.   

A construction crane fell and smashed Matt's restaurant during the storm.   

"The crane fell from a construction site, even though it was properly secured, hit the ceiling of my restaurant and caved that in." he said.  "Then proceeded to put the rest of the building several blocks down the road."      

Keep in mind some of those homes were worth upwards of a million dollars.  Lost was the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce. The video Matt and Janice shot of the Biloxi area soon after Katrina, including the Highway 90 Bridge, show the power of this storm. "The wind just ripped it to shreds."   

Even one year later, the startling pictures of the destruction this storm brought to the Gulf Coast is hard to believe. The President Casino, was just washed down the street.  "A lot of people were wandering around like they didn't understand what had happened,  or they were just in shock," Matt said.   

Matt and Janice say today's anniversary feels like remembering a death in the family, with tears and laughter.  Matt says "It takes a long time to live with it."   

Today the Geikins are both students at Albany Technical College, Matt in Restaurant Management, Janice in pharmacology.  Georgia is home for now, but the Geikins say seldom a day goes by they don't think about Biloxi, and the change Hurricane Katrina made in their lives.     

In the days after Hurricane Katrina, the American Red Cross in Albany serviced 447 families. Approximately 1,900 evacuees came to Albany for shelter.