Hayneville man fought to avoid Katrina

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2005

With everyone's focus on the separated families in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, Frank J. Munoz Jr. was busy trying to get back to his family in Hayneville.

"I live in Pascagoula, Miss., part of the time while I attend college," Munoz said.

"I'm working on my bachelor's degree in Industrial Engineering Technology at the University of Mississippi, so I'm there part of the time, while my family lives in Hayneville."

It just so happens Munoz was away at college when Hurricane Katrina came ashore.

"All of the houses south of Highway 90 were flooded in about four feet of water," Munoz said. "Everyone's personal belongings were sitting on curbs. Everything was ruined."

According to Munoz, he evacuated to the Days Inn Hotel when the hurricane hit. With winds at 150 mph, the entire front end of the hotel was stripped off layer by layer, including the insulation. He said that the waters soon rose to the first floor of the hotel, causing all the occupants to head to the second floor.

"It is unbelievable how hard it is to walk in wind that strong," Munoz said. "You have to stay low and cover your face because it feels like you're getting sandblasted. You can't see a thing."

He said that he has been through earthquakes and mudslides in California, but the hurricane was even worse.

"This hurricane scared me, and nothing usually scares me," Munoz said explaining how he saw three different 18-wheelers being flipped over by the powerful winds.

On Tuesday evening, Munoz left the hotel and found his way to the fairgrounds in Pascagoula, Miss.

"From 6:30 until 12:30 Wednesday morning, I stood in line for six gallons of drinking water and four small bags of ice," he said.

With no power, no running water and still not being able to get in touch with his wife Linda in Hayneville, Munoz was allowed to return to his home in Pascagoula to check on things.

"The south side of Highway 90 was flooded, but since I live on the north side, the water was not as bad," he said.

The other problem Munoz ran into was not being able to find any gas. He said that he waited in line for gas Thursday morning, but the gas station attendant told him that he couldn't sell any because it was contaminated.

With the ATM's not working, Munoz borrowed $100 cash and $5 in gas from his son who lives in Pascagoula, and he headed toward Alabama, five days after the storm. He had not been able to contact his wife Linda the entire week.

"On Saturday, Sept. 3, I had just enough gas to drive from Pascagoula, Miss., to Tillman's Corner, Ala., to Wal-Mart for food," Munoz said. "Once inside Wal-Mart, everybody was grabbing for whatever they could get. All of the bread and ice were gone."

"In Atmore, I was able to get $30 more in gas, but they were rationing it," he said.

He finally made it home Saturday evening.

"I had gotten some information about Pensacola and New Orleans, but there was no communication and no information about Mississippi nor Alabama, so I had no idea how my wife and kids were back home," he said.

Other than not knowing about the well being of his family in Hayneville, the biggest hardship to Munoz was not being able to take a shower.

"I had a shower the Sunday night at the hotel before Katrina hit," he said. "I couldn't get another one until Saturday when I got back home."

"I'm very blessed because my family is fine," Munoz said.

The first question he asked his wife Linda when he finally arrived home was, "Do you have any gas?"