Wet marsh grass covered Highway 82 in Pecan Island on Friday morning, deposited by the Gulf water Hurricane Laura pushed inland as she made landfall early Thursday in nearby Cameron Parish.

Residents used their personal backhoes and tractors to shovel a path through the grass, creating feet-high walls as they cleared the way for other residents and camp owners to access their property.

While the worst of Laura had passed for much of southwest Louisiana, for folks in coastal parts of Vermilion and Cameron parishes, the storms effects were still being felt. Low-lying communities such as Cameron and Delcambre remained cut off by flood water, mud and debris left by the storm, most of them without electricity.

Abbeville resident John T. Landry sat in his truck Friday morning, one in a line of people waiting to get through the mounds of debris to check on their homes and camps. When he made it to his Marshview Lodge, Landry took a quick look around.

“It could have been worse,” he said. “At least I’ve got the upstairs camp. You can see the downstairs is going to be a disaster.”

Landry was so sure the night before the storm hit that his camp would be destroyed he dug out his insurance policies. But the 20-foot storm surge meteorologists and other specialists anticipated, which would have been worse than Hurricane Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Ike in 2008, didn't materialize in Pecan Island.

Stepping into hip boots, Landry strapped on a holster and pistol, explaining, “They said they had three alligators in a camp. I’ll kill a snake with a shovel, but not an alligator.”

A closer look at his camp, actually two camps — a ground-floor building and an elevated one — proved he was right. The ground-floor camp was trashed, the storm’s water pushing through a steel door and metal walls. A foot or two of water remained inside and outside Friday, held in place by a strong wind from the Gulf of Mexico, a remnant of Hurricane Laura. 

A University of Louisiana at Lafayette flag still hung in the downstairs camp, along with other personal items on the walls, a stuffed animal  and a wind chime. Upstairs, potted plants, a cross and a statue of St. Francis remained in place on a deck facing the marsh and Gulf.

Landry and friends removed most of the furniture from the upstairs camp, which survived with the exception of a little siding, as did his boat shed and boat lift, which made Landry happy.

“After Hurricane Rita, the first thing I rebuilt was the boat shed,” he said. “There’s something about a Cajun and his boat shed.”

Also in Pecan Island, Annie Parks surveyed Laura’s damage to the house that belonged to her parents Friday morning: two carports were down, a water line and gas line were damaged, the electricity and telephone were out and a sign out front advertising pecans, honey and sorghum was toppled.

She’s grateful Laura wasn’t a Rita. When Rita hit the coast, Parks said, she lived on the front ridge of Pecan Island.

“My house ended up in the middle of the road.”

About 2 o’clock in the morning Thursday, Brandon Hebert started to regret his decision to ride out Hurricane Laura in the two-story brick home he had built in Bell City.

“The house was rumbling, the shingles were popping off the roof like popcorn popping,” he said Friday.

It was the first time Hebert rode out a hurricane and it’ll be the last. He and about seven other men, all friends and family, decided to tough it out at the house. At one point, before the storm’s winds got too strong, a few of the men ventured outside to fill the generator with diesel.

“We hear a loud noise,” Hebert said. The equipment shed behind the house blew away. The men rode out the rest of the storm without the generator and in the dark.

Hebert’s house is due west of where the eye of Laura passed. Friday afternoon, while he and others struggled to put a huge tarp over the roof, Hebert tried to explain his decision to stay for the storm.

“I saw the house built. I knew it was strong,” he said. “I don’t know. Maybe testosterone.”


Email Claire Taylor at ctaylor@theadvocate.com.