On the day Hurricane Katrina hit, everyone was desperate to know how serious the situation really was. With power and phone service wiped out, it was almost impossible for WLBT producers in Jackson to reach our reporters on the coast.
But after the winds died down, we were finally able to get the story from the air with Skycopter 3. On Tuesday, August 30, WLBT interrupted is scheduled programming for a special report with Coyt Bailey, Skycopter 3's pilot. The images he revealed were striking, and they communicated the magnitude of the storm immediately.
That night, Coyt's video and narration were featured on the "NBC Nightly News" and on local stations across the world. They were also viewed by countless computer users through the WLBT website.
In the days after Katrina, the Skycopter crew made numerous visits to the Coast and to Louisiana. Coyt was determined to let even the most far-flung residents know they weren't forgotten, even collecting and airlifting relief supplies where he saw there was a need.
Skycopter 3 returned to the coast a year later for a look at how things have changed. Most noticeable perhaps is the color -- green grass replacing the salt-water-infused and windblown look of before.
The slabs are wiped clean now, and on some -- trailers or even new construction.
Most of the casinos are coming back to life, with a shiny coat of paint and new lights.
You can see a sense of order now, and though it's not yet what it once was, the Mississippi Gulf Coast looks a lot better from above than it did when Skycopter 3 first stunned us all with its images after the storm.