2005: Katrina’s Devastation

Nancy Lane, CCIM, broker-owner, Nancy Lane Commercial Realty Inc., Jackson, Miss., was president of the Mississippi Association of REALTORS® when Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.

September 1, 2011

As state president, what action did you take after Hurricane Katrina?

We took action before it hit our state. I spent the weekend with our then-CEO Angela Cain setting up the Mississippi relief fund. We knew it was coming, and we knew it was going to be bad. By Monday morning [Aug. 29], we had bylaws set up. That’s the day it hit. [The storm had swept southern Florida the week before, gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico.] Once we got the state relief fund set up, we were in a position to request funds from NAR. I have to say, not just the national association but all the states were very generous.

What has the disaster relief funding meant to your state?

It has been a godsend. It means so much to our members who are affected. After Katrina, the few remaining properties on the market were snatched up. There were REALTORS® who lost their homes and didn’t even have the forms to contract business. The Jackson association brought forms to them.

There’s still quite a bit to be done. But the Governor of Mississippi at the time [Haley Barbour] was wonderful in his response. He pulled together a group of designers for a charrette. They went to the coast and sat there for a couple of weeks and developed ideas. That’s where the idea for the Katrina cottages came from.

I went into Biloxi to hear the results of the charrette, and the National Guard allowed us to tour the beach. Everything was wiped out three blocks deep. I was very familiar with the coast; I spent my life driving up and down that coast. And you couldn’t tell where you were. All the familiar markers were gone. The bridge from Biloxi to Ocean Spring, Miss., was gone and the bridge from Gulfport, Ala., to Bay St. Louis, Miss., was gone.

How did you decide who received funding?

We met daily for a month going through the applications. There’s a picture of Angela Cain with the applications stacked up to her waist. We went through every single one approving or denying. At first we were trying to get money out to people for immediate needs, and there was a $2,500 limit. As time went on, we became much more stringent, and were able to give larger gifts.

How did you ensure the funds were used effectively?

We realized immediately we couldn’t fund all the work for a given project. There had to be input from another source. So we partnered with Lutheran Episcopal Services, which was sending in teams of volunteers to do rebuilding. We provided materials, and they did the work. I went down to the coast several times, probably five or six times, to see the properties that were being renovated. Literally, these volunteers were in a gymnasium sleeping on cots. They rotated in for a week or two at a time.

It was very heartwarming to meet some of the owners of the properties. One of the things that struck me was that the people who had the hardest time rebuilding were those who were retired and on limited incomes. There are a lot of retirees on the coast, and my heart went out to that particular group.

How did it make you feel as a REALTOR® to take part in these relief efforts?

REALTORS® on the coast carried the story of the relief fund. They’re the ones who advertised its availability. That big stack of applications came from word of mouth, each REALTOR® touching someone on the coast.

I was bursting with pride to be a REALTOR® and to be able to help people. It was immediate — and that’s what people needed, immediate help. I feel like we made a huge impact on people who had little left.

Stacey Moncrieff

Stacey is executive editor of publications for the National Association of REALTORS® and editor in chief of REALTOR® Magazine.