I live in Southern Mississippi, where the culture has been impacted by hurricane Katrina to such an extent that even six years after the event I still hear people refer to it daily. People in this area often use Katrina as a common temporal reference point in order to give context when describing an event: it either happened “Before Katrina” or “After Katrina.”
Because of the fact that I was not living in the area when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to the local lexicon and common understanding. There are simply words and phrases I don’t immediately understand because I wasn’t here during the event.
One of those terms that I learned recently was FEMA trailer. A FEMA trailer is a RV-like trailer that was (and in some cases still is) used as temporary housing until people rebuild their homes lost during the storm. Some interesting shots of folks living in these trailers can be found here.
There is little doubt that these trailers sure helped a lot of folks when they needed it, but have you ever wondered where they ended up? I didn’t either, until I saw this on a trip this weekend:
I took this photo at the intersection of MS 589 and I-59 in Purvis, Mississippi. To put this in perspective, check out this satellite view I found (I added a red box to show the area photographed above:
Now to really blow your mind, I stitched together a series of satellite photos I found using MapQuest. I have highlighted the area you can see in the photo above with a red box:
It boggles the mind! Now, consider this: These trailers cost the US government about $18,600 each! In all, FMEA bought 145,000 trailers at a total price tag of about $2.7B.
Although $18K per trailer may sound reasonable, it pales in comparison to the $200K+ per trailer that the government paid in some temporary trailer parks to set them up and maintain them.
Don’t worry, though: the Government did recover some of the costs as they auctioned some off for roughly 40% of the amount paid for them when new. Before you run out and buy one, though, there are some concerns about excessive formaldehyde levels. If you have already bought yours, don’t worry, FEMA will buy it back from you.