Eyewitness: Visiting the Mississippi coast

Despite being two blocks from the beach, Biloxi’s Beth Israel is still standing, though heavily damaged.

Mid-day today, there were no problems getting to Biloxi on the Interstate system, though U.S. 90 from I-110 westward is generally passable on one side or the other — not in both directions. Many parts of the road are covered with sand, water, or have large ridges. A large crane across U.S. 90 diverts traffic onto the road where the synagogue is, the highway is then passable only to the coliseum; in front of there, the President Casino that had been on the water rests on the highway.

The synagogue building’s exterior brick, a later addition, has been largely peeled away. The front, with its Ten Commandments artwork, is intact. The roof over the sanctuary seems intact, but other parts were not visible, nor were we able to get inside the building to assess the interior’s condition. A couple of windows upstairs were blown out.

Debris litters the ground all around the building.

Mobile, Hattiesburg: Trees down

As of mid-day today, Springhill Avenue Temple in Mobile and B’nai Israel in Hattiesburg were still without power.

The historical marker in front of Springhill Avenue Temple, the state’s oldest Jewish congregation, was toppled in the storm.

Numerous trees fell in front of Springhill Avenue Temple, and crews were removing branches today. A very large branch was sheared off an oak tree just in front of the sanctuary, taking out the power lines, which were still on the ground beneath the limb. According to one of the workers, another large branch had been on the roof.

The congregation was already repairing the roof this summer from damage suffered during Hurricane Ivan last year.

Across town, Mobile’s Ahavas Chesed had numerous limbs down in the parking lot, but did not suffer major damage.

In Hattiesburg, the ground around B’nai Israel was littered with shingles. A large tree on the corner fell, but did not hit the building. The windows were all intact. Most of Hattiesburg was still without power, and numerous roads have power lines dangling very close to the ground.

B’nai Israel in Hattiesburg lost a large proportion of its shingles