We’re staying at the Isle of Capri Hotel and Casino in Biloxi, MS, one of the few hotels still standing along highway 90. It’s a odd privilege to be staying right in the middle of one of the hardest hit areas. Closed off to most of the public, we are required to go through a military checkpoint before driving up the empty highway to the Isle of Capri. On our left are battered hotels–the Beau Rivage, the Hard Rock Hotel, Casino Magic–on the right, where there used to be old ante-bellum houses and beachfront homes, are sets of stairs leading to piles of debris. It’s an eerie sight, the daily dose of which has become an important part of how we’re coming to understand this storm and it’s impact.
Above, is a view from Facilitator Nick Yulman’s hotel room. You can see across the highway what little is left of the neighborhood–a community of fisherman, mostly shrimpers, many Vietnamese–that once surrounded these hotels.
Because of off-shore gambling laws, the hotels built their casinos on large barges. The force of the hurricane took three of those barges (as big as hotels themselves) and carried them across the highway. The Isle of Capri’s casino disappeared without a trace. Above, you can see one of those barges being dismantled by wrecking crews.
The Isle of Capri, closed to the general public, is teeming with FEMA and EPA employees as well as builders, electricians, plumbers, and anyone else needed to renovate the damaged hotel in order to re-open later this month. One hotel employee, Rocco Asencio and his wife Terri came to the StoryBooth to talk about their hurricane experience.