Sunday, November 13, 2005

Cameron Parish

This past Saturday, we met my father-in-law and his "significant other" for the first time after the hurricane. Her house was flooded in the storm and she has decided to sell the property. She will buy a trailer and put it on her daughter's land a mile away from where she previously lived. The house was her family home. I questioned her about making the decision so soon to walk away from it all. Her mind is made up. The job of restoring the house to liveable condition would be too much for her to take on at this stage in her life in her opinion. So she is moving on, getting land elevation reports, preparing to raise the land to the new required level, to have electricity and sewerage connected, to have a well dug-- starting over at the ripe old age of seventy something.

My father-in-law lost his boat and his truck was damaged by the water. He has since bought another boat and will soon get his repaired truck back. He is crabbing again and says the crabbing is better than he has ever seen before. The down side to that is that the price he can get for crabs has gone down because the market is flooded.

On Sunday afternoon my youngest daughter and I drove to the camp where my son was staying before the hurricane. We thought we would see if we could get some of his clothes that he had left behind. He had come home for what was planned to be a two day visit before the storm and then Rita decided to drop by and so he never got to go back to the camp to bring all his clothing home.

The camp was nothing like it was before. The salt water from the storm surge left the pond full of stagnant water and mud. The camp itself had gotten water in it from the storm surge and when the surge flowed back to the marsh it left behind a stiff coating of dark marsh mud. We were able to go in and retrieve most of his clothing and I think the smell will come out with the wash (or perhaps two or three washes).

When we got to the small community where my son had been staying there were people milling about and working to clean things up. One of the most heart-wrenching scenes as we passed on the highway was a family sitting together watching a fire burn away the remants of what had been their home.

Driving in Cameron parish is still limited to daytime hours. The man at the checkpoint going in told me the speed limit was 45 miles per hour and warned me "about a cop named Butch who will give you a ticket for going 46 miles an hour". I set my cruise control and took no chances.

We took a few pictures where we could, mostly stopping in the road and snapping photos from the car since there was hardly any traffic on the road. I did not want to get off the main road for fear of "catching a flat" (as the Cajuns would say) from a loose nail and I did not want to linger anywhere and take a chance on looking like I might be looting. I also wanted to be respectful of the tremendous losses of these people so if there were people around I took no pictures.

Anyway, here they are, if you can stand more hurricane devastation images. I keep saying I am going to quit writing about this, it's all old news, but for many of these people, these hurricanes will forever be a dividing line in their lives -- life before the storm and a completely different life after the storm. It isn't over for them. It takes a while to rebuild a life.

Here are a couple of the before and after photos. I posted this one of the old house with a new roof not long ago. Now the roof is swaying, the windows are all out and the green shutters were blown off. Also note in the after photo the water in the background. I am not sure if it is water that is still standing from the storm surge or if their is a body of water back there that has surpassed its banks. Whatever it is, the water is not supposed to be there.

There were graves that were lifted up in at least one of the cemeteries. You can see the brown rubble the surge left behind. The salt water burned the vegetation. In a few other spots I could see the grass growing back already. I don't know how this statue withstoood the force of the water.
I have no idea what this is nor do I have any idea how it managed to get so neatly dropped over this tree.

There was a house here before the storm. Now all that is left are the beautiful old oak trees. The chimney remains and a bird sings from its perch, oblivious to the pain.
Steps leading nowhere.The Catholic Church and the Baptist Church.
These were the two things I looked for and did not find: This quaint little post office building and the cows that were in this pasture. We could not get our bearings straight to even see where the building had originally been located, could not even find the slab the it stood on.

You can see the cracked and dried up marsh mud in the foreground of the pasture picture. The salt water has killed all the vegetation. They may have been able to evacuate their cattle to higher ground but many of the cattle farmers lost all their cattle.

Word has it that the hunters are marveling over the number of ducks and gearing up for a good duck hunting season. I don't know how true it is, but someone said that the salt water has blinded the snakes and the turtles. Blind turtles may not cause too many problems, but the snakes are plentiful and unable to see. They will be a hazard to hunters who are out in the marsh preparing their duck blinds for hunting season.

Ya know, Dorothy, I just don't think we are in Kansas anymore. Obviously this house does not belong this close to the highway. I did not stop to examine whether the wicked witch's shoes were sticking out from underneath the house.

And here is the shadow of our car on the marsh grass as we are leaving Cameron parish. Such destruction. Such strong and determined people. So much work to do.


  1. Wow- those are incredible and heartwrenching pictures, Annie. We have had our share here in FL as well over the past two years and down here, like up there, there was life before the hurricanes and now life after. In fact, anything bad that happens to anyone down here is blamed on a hurricane! We all have PTSD!

  2. I have just returned from south florida (where I grew up) and it's heartbreaking to see (actually not see) things that were there before....landmarks gone, and leafless trees......the ones that remain standing. Made me very sad......

  3. Thank you for the post and the pictures! I appreciate the time it took to share this with us.

    God bless.

  4. Wow, Annie -- this are amazing pictures. I think the rest of us forget that it's not all over, not realizing how long the rebuilding takes and how lives are still being affected.

  5. Annie, Annie, Annie.
    Thank you for these pictures. As winter locks in up north here, we have no idea, none at all, of what people are still suffering. The worst we ever get is an ice storm, tree damage, hydro lines down. There is no lasting devastation from this kind of thing. Clean-up is minimal...although the trees take a generation or two to grow back. If a blizzard or ice-storm lasts more than a couple of days, it is relatively easy to bring in military half-tracks and ski-doos to take out the elderly and those without heat. The odd tornado hassles us from June to October...but nothing like they get in Kansas. The last major hurricane to blow as far as Toronto was in 1954 and I remember being there the morning after and standing on the high side of the Humber River and watching houses float past, and the occasional piano, flotsam and jetsam. Since then, people have not been allowed to build on flood plain and there is lots of high ground around, so there is no need to build land up, or keep dikes in good repair. Houses here are very substantial, although the pictures you took include some quite well built homes...that plantation house must have been huge, judging by the chimney. Our houses are built to withstand weather at -40C. They are never tested by earth quake. The odd high wind takes off a roof or two or fells a tree and we are in awe. I hadn't given consideration to the effects of salt water on a fresh water ecology, which shows how dumb I am...nor had I considered marsh mud.
    I am praying for you all right now.


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