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Tuchman: Family in insurance hell over Katrina

By Gary Tuchman
CNN

Editor's note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news. Watch national correspondent Gary Tuchman report on a Mississippi family's struggles to rebuild their home on "Anderson Cooper 360," which Anderson Cooper will anchor from New Orleans, Louisiana, at 10 p.m. ET Thursday.

Gary Tuchman
CNN's Gary Tuchman has reported on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and its impact on the Gulf Coast.

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Behind the Scenes
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Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

WAVELAND, Mississippi (CNN) -- It is remarkably sad how little has changed over the 4 1/2 months since Hurricane Katrina ravaged Gulf Coast neighborhoods.

Case in point: Waveland, Mississippi.

The rubble from homes remains even after summer turned into fall and then winter arrived.

Two days after Katrina came ashore, I visited Waveland and met Rebecca McIntosh, 17, and her grandmother Kathy Everard. They stood in the street in a sort of stunned silence.

Rebecca told me she thought her house had been destroyed but said they had no way of seeing it up close because of all the debris. Through mud and muck, Rebecca and I walked across houses leveled by Katrina to get a view.

We arrived after a 15-minute hike, and the sight took Rebecca's breath away. The house had been flattened; everything was destroyed. Rebecca cried softly. Viewing the devastation, she described how sad the loss of her lifelong collection of dolls made her.

After the story aired, viewers sent Rebecca dolls and clothes. We were touched to hear about such kindness and stayed in contact with Rebecca and her grandmother.

We decided this week to go back to Waveland.

What we have seen so far has saddened us. Granddaughter and grandmother live in a tiny trailer from the the Federal Emergency Management Agency next to the rubble of their home.

Why is all the wreckage still there?

Everard says she can't have the debris removed because it's evidence for her insurance company, which she says has refused to pay.

She says she has a hurricane policy but says the company insists flooding destroyed her home and therefore her government flood policy should pay.

Everard says she did receive money from the government policy, but it wasn't enough to cover the cost of her 3,000-square-foot home.

The grandmother says hurricane winds are the main reason her house was destroyed and that it's ridiculous she's not receiving the money to which she feels she's entitled.

Her complaint is similar to those being heard all over the Gulf Coast.

People say they paid their insurance policies faithfully. Now they say they have to fight to get paid for the damage as they try to get their lives back to the way they were before Katrina hit on August 29.

Everard's insurance company now tells CNN it has decided to reconsider her situation, and once it completes an estimate of the wind damage, she will receive a payment.

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