For policeman Chris Flowers, the worst part of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has been the sense of helplessness.

On Tuesday, he said, people confronted him in this steamy, hurricane-devastated city. They hadn’t eaten in two days.

Yet Flowers – in the midst of a 30-hour work stretch – could offer little more than reassuring words.

“You just try to comfort them the best you can. ‘Help is on the way,’ ” he said Sunday, supervising an around-the-block line of vehicles at a gas station.

And assistance is pouring in from around the nation to get this community back on its feet.

The town is littered with downed power lines and 4-foot-high stacks of cut trees.

Linemen worked Sunday clearing debris and trying to restore power to homes and businesses.

For blocks in the residential areas, workmen and family members hammered roofs back together, cleared brush and wondered how much worse it could have been if they had felt the full wrath of Katrina.

Ice, gasoline, electricity and water became priorities.

Graham Christian, 71, lives alone and said he “rode it through all the way” last Monday in this town that builds electric transformers and processes chickens.

He was in his kitchen when a tree limb punched a hole in his roof, and driving rain began pouring into his bathroom.

He gathered blankets and towels and created a border so the rising waters didn’t flow into other parts of his house. It kept the water at bay.

A week later, without power, he has no air conditioning, and said, “It’s been rough. The heat affects you when you’re in your 70s.”

Sunday afternoon, his sons, Andrew and Robert, were busy patching the roof of his house.

Gasoline lines

Over at One Stop No. 2, a nondescript convenience store and gas station, Summer Anderson and her cousin, James Hungerford, came to the head of the gas line after a 45-minute wait – and after an hour and a half drive from Columbia, Miss., just to fuel up.

“It’s pathetic,” Anderson said. “It’s sad when gas is to be gotten and we can’t get it.”

She said fistfights in Columbia had become so commonplace that authorities said, “That’s it, we’re turning off the pumps.”

So the cousins and Anderson’s two young children made the drive, taking up half of their Sunday for petroleum.

Manager Betty Jones said the store was looted just after the hurricane.

“They almost wiped me out,” she said as she supervised the gas line.

“Cigarettes, beer – anything on the shelf.”

Her door – which had been broken – is now fixed.

“They just took advantage of a bad situation,” she said. “It just upset me, really.”

Front-row seats

David Boudreaux and Stephen Waguespack said they sat on a covered front porch, sheltered by a house, when Katrina roared through.

The New Orleans residents and their families sought refuge at the Laurel, Miss., home of Waguespack’s sister before the storm came.

The irony of escaping to Laurel – which itself suffered 12 fatalities – was not lost on them, yet they were stoic.

“We were on the porch, witnessing trees being knocked over,” Waguespack said. “Which one is next, which one is going to fall next?

“We’ve seen every tree that was knocked down. The wind bends the trees a little more, and a little more ...” he said.

As to their New Orleans hometown, Boudreaux said, “The leadership really failed. Well, you know, you couldn’t evacuate the city.”

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