60 Years Ago Today — Hurricane Audrey
June 27, 1957 is a date that a great many people in the Lake Charles area will always remember. It was on that date exactly 60 years ago that Hurricane Audrey came charging onto the coast line in the pre-dawn hours on a Friday morning catching a great many people unaware.
Back in the late 50s, radio and TV stations did not have round-the-clock coverage and the methods for predicting storm behavior were not nearly as precise as they are today. Many epople went to bed on that Thursday night thinking that they would be save, but the unpredictable nature of hurricanes came into play that day in a deadly way.
Basically, no one was ready for the 125 mph winds that Audrey was packing. The storm surge roared ashore in waves about 12 feet high and buried everything in its path for miles around. It was that deadly storm surge and the lack of time to prepare that wreaked havoc on this area and the residents of Cameron.
The actual death toll from Audrey will never be known. There were so many people missing after the storm and it's well known that the storm literally carried homes and people out into the Gulf never to be heard from again. It's estimated that between 500 and 600 people died during that terrible day back in 1957.
Here is a radar image of Hurricane Audrey as she moved onto the coast the morning of September 27th.
Following the devastation of the storm, there were so many dead who remained unidentified that people were buried in mass graves. One notable site is at the Prien/Highland Cemetery on Common in Lake Charles.
There is a special memorial at that site in remembrance of the 33 unknown victims of Audrey who are buried at that site. Here is a close up of the dedication on the memorial:
I vaguely remember Hurricane Audrey and I seem to recall that the storm was supposed to be tracking more toward the Beaumont area. We didn't evacuate, but we did spend the night at what would be my Elementary School when I was old enough to go to school.
It wasn't until we got home from taking shelter in the school that we found out about the terrible devastation in this area. My parents had friends in the Lake Charles area and their stories were right out of a horror movie. I'll never forget some friends of my parents who lived in an area that got a lot of water telling my folks about how, when they got home they found a 6 foot cottonmouth in their closet!
Here we are in yet another hurricane season and it's good to know that so much progress has been made in both storm prediction and mass media that an Audrey situation would be all but impossible these days. Still let's all make sure we're really ready for anything this hurricane season.
Here is a link to The National Weather Service story about Audrey