Gustav vs. the Gazette

A modest local paper stays on top of Gustav

While hotshot network correspondents put on their storm gear to attempt to report the hell out of Hurricane Gustav, the Gazebo Gazette, a two-year-old weekly that covers Pass Christian, a town of about 6,500 on the coast of Mississippi, did its more humdrum duty as a community paper. Created post-Katrina to facilitate communications as the community rebuilt itself, the Gazette kept publishing and went on to cover BBQ contests, regattas and zoning board meetings. But as Gustav flooded highways and wells in the area earlier this week, the paper returned to its original function, posting updates online. Some of its news-to-safety snippets:

8/30, 8:15 p.m.: “WLOX just reported that self-serve sand bags (bring your own shovel) are available at the old City Barn on North Street in Pass Christian.”

8/31, 6:34 p.m.: “Earlier today, we drove around town to take photos of the city… As of about 1 p.m. on Sunday, I would guess that at least half the homes in downtown and east Pass Christian had boarded up, with most of the homes on Scenic Drive shuttered up.”

8/31, 6:50 p.m.: “The Shell station was still open at around 1:30 p.m., but had run out of many things — including both gas and ice.”

9/1, 10:19 a.m.: “From Gazebo Gazette editor Evelina Shmukler, by phone: I just took a ride around town… Highway 90 is completely covered with water, as is the Pass Christian harbor.”

9/2, 7:23 a.m.: “Below is a list of all highways that are CLOSED in the state of Mississippi…”

9/2, 8:27 a.m.: “We just spoke to Bruce Anthony of WPSCO about the water situation in town. There is a BOIL WATER NOTICE in all of Pass Christian until further notice. There is some water going into the system — only one of the city’s three wells is currently operational — but it is NOT FOR CONSUMPTION.”

9/2, 11:19 a.m.: “Post office employees worked the mail this morning by flashlight and most routes went out… The Shell station is open and has ice. No gas yet, but they have a gas delivery scheduled; should arrive tonight or tomorrow morning.”

This morning brought another traffic update and a shout-out from a city engineer saying thanks to drivers for heeding notices to stay off the highway. Or should that be thanks to the Gazette for getting the word out?

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Jane Kim is a writer in New York.