GULF COAST GRIMLY COUNTS ITS LOSSES / Officials fear thousands killed by Katrina / MISSISSIPPI: In shattered town, man and dog survive ride of a lifetime: “GULF COAST GRIMLY COUNTS ITS LOSSES Officials fear thousands killed by Katrina MISSISSIPPI: In shattered town, man and dog survive ride of a lifetime Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer Monday, September 5, 2005
Waveland, Miss. — Brian Mollere looked Hurricane Katrina right in the eye, thumbed his nose and lived to tell the tale. The 50-year-old marine construction worker was one of several residents of the Mississippi beachfront town of Waveland to ignore evacuation warnings and survive. He did it by swimming off the roof of his home as it collapsed in the storm surge. He then rode a torrent of water over the tops of trees 1,000 feet inland before he managed to grab onto a house. And all the while he was holding onto his beloved pet Chihuahua, Rocky… Mollere, who ignored pleas from his family and local police, said he decided to ride out the storm with Rocky inside the two-story storefront/home across the street from city hall that he shared with his mother.
He said he woke up at 6 a.m. that day to howling winds and flying debris. By 6:30 a.m., whitecaps were breaking down Coleman Avenue, the city’s main street. Shortly after 7 a.m., a downstairs wall blew out and water rushed in. Forced to the second floor, Mollere and his dog watched as the house filled with 12 feet of water. He climbed out onto the roof of the first floor after the stairway collapsed and the building started shaking.
As the building collapsed, he plunged into the water.
“I figured, well, maybe I’ll just ride it out,” he said, leaning back in a chair on the concrete slab that is the only thing left of his house and puffing on a cigarette. “I was in survival mode.” Holding Rocky with one hand, he maneuvered past debris and the tops of trees, losing a shoe and his shorts in the process. “I’d climb in, out and around trees. I was going over power lines and got tangled in some power lines once,” he said. “I was really afraid of getting electrocuted.”
The flow took him over the railroad tracks. At one point he heard someone shouting and looked up to see people waving from a rooftop. “I just kind of smiled and waved and pointed to indicate that I was going thisaway,” he said. “Finally I came to a big yellow house and grabbed onto the side and pulled myself up the back steps.” To his shock, a family opened the door, fed him and clothed him. “The first thing I said to them was, ‘Can I get some water for my dog?’ ” he said. “Then I just collapsed in their house.”
Mollere’s mother, Jane Mollere, 80, died in the hurricane. She had evacuated Waveland and went to stay with relatives in an inland town. But their house was flooded, and she couldn’t swim to safety.
As for his own salvation, he said, “I guess it wasn’t my time to go.”
Besides, he added, “my father, Charles Brewster Mollere, floated down the same street during Hurricane Camille in 1969 in a flower barrel. He swore that he saw a white horse swimming that day and followed it to safety. I guess it runs in the family.”