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Last Updated: Friday, 2 September 2005, 21:42 GMT 22:42 UK
'It can't get any worse for me'
By Richard Allen Greene
BBC News, Gulfport, Mississippi

Shantarelle Graham
Ms Graham started queuing for petrol in the middle of the night
Shantarelle Graham got a phone call from her brother in the early hours of the morning.

"He said, 'Wal-Mart is going to have gas. Meet me there now,'" she said.

She headed for the store and got there at 0300 [0800 GMT], making her and her brother among the first 10 in the queue for petrol in Gulfport, Mississippi - ground zero of Hurricane Katrina.

Ms Graham had not been there long when the police came.

We have hurricanes all the time. We had no idea it was going to be like this
Shantarelle Graham
"They threatened to arrest me and take me to jail for violating the curfew," she said, referring to Gulfport's 1800-to-0600 lockdown.

"I said, 'Take me, because I don't have enough gas to get home if I don't fill up.'"

The police let her stay - and five hours later, she had a full tank.

But she has little else, she says.

She and her five-year-old daughter Jayden, rode out the storm in her house on the bayou.

Even one storey above ground, Ms Graham found herself wading in ankle-deep water by Monday night.

"The house is there, but everything is underwater," she said.

Ready to leave

She had prepared for a storm, she said, just not one as bad as Katrina.

"We packed up food and water like we always do, gassed up the cars, and washed clothes because we knew there wouldn't be any electricity.

"We have hurricanes all the time. We had no idea it was going to be like this."

She saw the floods destroy the four vehicles parked outside - two sport utility vehicles, a pickup truck and a car.

"The horns started beeping and the lights started flashing. We watched until the lights stopped."

The car she was filling with petrol belongs to a relative who has taken her and Jayden in, she said.

She calls Gulfport home - having returned to the city after serving in the Coast Guard - but now she says she wants to leave.

She worked at nearby Keesler Air Force Base, but she assumes she does not any more.

"I haven't been there, but I've seen pictures in the paper. It's..." she trailed off, spreading her arms wide and shrugging.

"My house is destroyed. It doesn't matter where I go. I can't be inconvenienced any more than I am now."


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