My father passed away almost 4 years ago. He had a small property south of Lake Charles, LA. His property consisted of a mobile home with a tool shed and a water pump shed. He loved this area of Louisiana, with its swamps and wildlife.
He was an avid hunter until a back injury partially paralyzed him. Due to his emotional problems, he was estranged from most of his family. I would call and visit when I came to town. It was sad to see him push everyone away with his various dramas and emotional manipulation.
In 2005, Hurricane Rita came ashore and his neighborhood was flooded with approximately 6 feet of storm surge above ground level. The following year, Hurricane Ike pushed over 7 feet of sea water into his neighborhood. As his house was built on a hill, and was built up about 5 feet, the water only came just below the door. He lost his shed and the water well pump with both hurricanes.
My first order of business was to sell his house after his death. It took over 3 years to sell a small house at a cheap price. Land may be cheap, but it’s incredibly expensive to build south of Lake Charles. If you can get insurance, it’s very expensive. When I was executor, I found that I could not afford the insurance on his home while I had it up for sale. Since it survived both Rita and Ike, I felt that the odds were in my favor of the house surviving to be sold.
The land is only 4 feet above sea level in this part of Louisiana. Luckily, he had planned ahead and built his mobile home on a hill, so the flood waters only took out his tool shed and damaged his water pump. His house survived unscathed, only the air conditioner was damaged by the sea water. He had to live with his sister for six weeks after the storm until the electricity was restored. They did not get along very well.
One year later, Hurricane Ike came ashore in Texas, and Lake Charles again received a large storm surge. This storm surge was 2 feet higher than the storm surge from Hurricane Rita. This time the water reached just below my father’s front door. The surviving homes in the area were damaged even more. Many people left as their insurance companies refused to rebuild in the area.
Just 2 miles to the south is Cameron Parish. When Hurricane Rita swept ashore in 2005, almost every home in the entire parish was destroyed. No insurance company will cover homes in the parish. Very few homes have been rebuilt, mostly people have returned in RVs. The parish has never recovered from the damage.
I grew up a couple of miles to the north of Lake Charles. While we had hurricanes, we never had the destruction on the scale that we had with Rita and Katrina. In 2005, various family members had to evacuate to various parts of the state during that summer. In southwest Louisiana, the electricity was out for over 6 weeks. Some of my family had to sleep part of the summer in tents at night as it was too hot to sleep indoors.
In 1957, 3 years before I was born, Hurricane Audry hit the southwest Louisiana coast. The storm surge and damage was comparable to Rita, but the loss of life was much higher (at least 500 were killed by the storm surge). Most of those killed in Audry were killed in Cameron Parish and were unable to escape as the main road out of Cameron was flooded early on. That was nearly 50 years before the two storms, Rita and Katrina, in 2005. But 2005 had two such storms, followed by Ike in 2006. A much higher frequency of severely destructive storm surges seems to be occurring. The ocean is nearly 8 inches higher due to sea-level rise. Is this making storm surge much worse?