June 25

This Day in History

Disaster

Jun 25, 1957:

Hurricane Audrey hits Gulf Coast

A hurricane watch is declared for the Texas and Louisiana coastlines as a tropical depression from the Gulf of Mexico heads toward the United States. The storm quickly becomes Hurricane Audrey, which kills 390 people.

A day after the watch was declared, the residents of Louisiana near the Gulf of Mexico were told to seek higher ground. By the time many residents actually began to follow the advice–on the morning of June 27–it was too late. Roads were already washed out because of the strong rain and winds and an oil rig in the gulf had capsized after a storm surge.

Water on the coast reached as high as 15 feet above the normal high-tide mark. Boats were washed ashore by the tremendous waves. The towns of Cameron, Creole and Grand Chenier were devastated by the hurricane. Only one building survived in Creole and only two were left standing in Cameron, thankfully including the courthouse that was sheltering many of the residents.

Many people were simply swept away by the floods. Eighteen people in a single family perished when their home was knocked down and washed away. Some survivors lived by tying themselves to tree tops, other by clinging to driftwood. At least one person died from the bite of a poisonous water snake while clinging to wreckage. Many bodies were not found for months after the hurricane--including one that was not recovered until the next year. It is possible that the death toll from Audrey exceeded 500 people.

Louisiana was not the only place that suffered Audrey's wrath. A building in Port Arthur, Texas, collapsed under heavy rain and wind. As far away as Canada, four people lost their lives at the tail end of the storm over a week later. More than 40,000 people were left homeless by Hurricane Audrey. Many were housed at McNeese State University near Lake Charles, Louisiana, until they could be permanently resettled. Many victims found it difficult to rebuild–their insurance offered financial protection from wind damage, but not water damage.

 

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