A hurricane hits the Louisiana coast, killing more than 400 people, on this day in 1856. Isle Derniere, a resort community, was totally submerged by the storm surges.
This hurricane, which came before scientists began naming big storms, probably formed in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico and moved northwest toward the Alabama coast. At that point, it veered due west and just missed a direct hit on Mobile, Alabama. Instead, the storm headed right for the mouth of the Mississippi River and devastated the Louisiana coast. Written reports of the storm describe it as the worst that anyone at the time could remember.
The worst-hit place was Isle Derniere (Last Island), a resort for Southern aristocrats near the Terrebonne Parish. The storm first brought blinding and torrential rain, which, when combined with strong winds, felt like daggers to the people on the ground. Next, storm surges carried water from Lake Pelto onto the small island from the north. Then, a tidal wave of water from the south devastated the residents. Reportedly, upwards of 150 people were carried off with the wave, with some bodies ending up six miles away. The only survivors from Last Island were those who were able to make it to a steamship moored on the island’s shores. Every building and home on the island was submerged under water for days after the storm.
Also hard hit was nearby Bayou LaFourche, where a mysterious sea creature was rumored to have come ashore due to the hurricane.
Although it avoided a direct hit on the Louisiana coast, the same area was further damaged less than a month later by another hurricane.