Census: Mississippi coast's population weathered Katrina

The Mississippi Coast did not suffer as large a population loss from Hurricane Katrina as had been estimated, just-released Census figures show, and may not face a loss of legislative representation in the state legislature as many had feared.

The 2009 Census estimates had forecast that Hancock County lost nearly 5 percent compared to the population it had in 2000. But the newly-released numbers for 2010 show the county had a net gain of 2.2 percent population over the decade.

In Harrison, the estimate had been for a 4.4 percent loss over the decade. But the loss was only 1.3 percent.

Coast lawmakers have said they fear the three Coast counties could lose up to two House seats and two Senate seats in Jackson from redistricting this year based on Census numbers.

But political observers digging into the latest numbers released on Thursday say that the overestimation of the Coast’s losses, coupled with overestimation of some inland counties' growth — such as Forrest, Madison, Rankin and DeSoto — could spare the Coast a loss of legislative clout.

It will depend on the more minute details of population shifts and losses.

For instance, it had been estimated that House District 115 that covers East Biloxi, which was hard hit by Katrina, lost as many as 12,000 people and that its representation might be picked up by the Forrest-Lamar counties area. But, depending on what Harrison County’s more detailed numbers show, that district might be spared, or altered to make up its losses.

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