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HURRICANE AUDREY

PECAN ISLAND, LOUISIANA

Thursday June 27, 1957


Information was obtained from
Purdee NOAA Newspaper Residents

Pictures after the storm can be found @ http://marshmom.tripod.com

Through research and interviews, I will try to tell the story of Hurricane Audrey as seen through the resident's eyes of Pecan Island. June 27, 2003 will be the 44th anniversary of Hurricane Audrey and all the heartache she brought with her to the residents of Louisiana's southwestern coast.



Hurricane Audrey began in the morning hours of June 24, 1957; its beginnings were in the Bay of Campeche, in the Gulf of Mexico. Late in the day, a report was received from a shrimping boat in the southern gulf , the boat reported rough seas and winds that where steady at 40 mph, with gusts as high as 60 mph. Audrey was now about 400 miles south of the Louisiana Coast.


The Weather Bureau issued a warning, and requested that the Navy Hurricane Hunters investigate the storm now brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. On Tuesday Morning, June 25th, a Navy plane flew into the storm and found a well developed eye with winds above 75 mph; at this time the storm was named Hurricane Audrey, and classified as a category 1 hurricane. Sometime during Tuesday night Audrey began a forward movement. On Wednesday June 26th, the Navy flew reconnaissance into Audrey, and recorded the pressure at 28.73 and winds sustained at 104 mph. It was also reported to be moving rapidly at 35 mph north towards Galveston, Texas.

Late Wednesday afternoon on the 26th of June, Hurricane Audrey tossed a fishing boat weighing 78 tons into an offshore drilling platform drowning 9 men. Meanwhile, people along the Texas Coast began to take precautions. People along the Louisiana Coast felt they were safe and continued to monitor the storms progress. Storm flags were flown along the Texas and Louisianan coast. Gale warnings where now in advisory for the coastal waters from Grand Isle, Louisiana to Corpus Christi, Texas. It was stated that the tides where rising and would be 5 to 8 feet by late Thursday. Sometime during Wednesday night of June 26th the hurricane warnings where changed to evacuate the southwestern coastal area of Louisiana. Some people ignored this warning others found out to late. People in this general area, at the time, had little or no experience of hurricanes. They figured it was just going to be gusty winds and some rain. Little did they realize it would be devastating and deadly.

Early Thursday morning around 4 a.m. the tide began to swiftly rise at Cameron, Louisiana. At Galveston, Texas a 16 foot tidal surge crashed over the sea wall and flooded the streets. In Corpus Christi, Texas a 400 ton tanker was washed inland. Early Thursday morning a 10 foot tidal surge crested sand bars located south of Cameron, Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, and headed for the small fishing village of Cameron, Louisiana. With winds recorded as high as 155 mph, the water built up a wave that crested at least 24 feet high, for houses where floating over the telephone poles, and people knew the telephone poles where 24 feet high. They say waves were rolling the homes over, and tossing them like corks in the swirling black waters. People were heard screaming while sliding into the black waters that were infested with snakes and other animals. Newspaper reports stated that the tidal surge was felt from Grand Isle, Louisiana to Corpus Christi, Texas. Winds as high as 75 mph were felt in Mobile, Alabama. This indicates Audrey was a big storm.

JUNE 26, 1957

PECAN ISLAND

On the morning June 26, 1957, the residents of Pecan Island were paying close attention to a storm by the name of Audrey located in the Gulf of Mexico. Residents of the Island assumed the storm would hit Galveston, Texas.

As night fell on the 26th of June, the winds continued to strengthen with rain increasing in frequency. Everyone of the residents of the Island went to bed Wednesday night never expecting the horror that would greet them early Thursday morning.


The residents of Pecan Island, Louisiana were paying attention to a storm in the Gulf of Mexico by the name of Audrey which was threatening the Texas coastline. By all the weather reports the storm was expected to hit the Texas coast, somewhere between Galveston and Port Arthur area. The residents of Pecan Island felt safe enough with the news the storm would not warrant the evacuation of Pecan Island. Some residents knew that if a storm went into the west of the island it could be worse, then if a storm made landfall to the east. No one on the island had any idea how strong Audrey was. Most of the residents figured they would only get gusty winds and some heavy rains; they didn't expect much more, and certainly didn't expect what was to come that fateful day. Wednesday the 26th of June came with low lying clouds, gusty winds, and scattered showers. As the day wore on the people of the island listened to the weather reports by radio, some listened on their car radio. Most residents continued with their daily lives; some had small farms, others worked for the new oil companies that had come in the 1940's, ans still others were fishermen and trappers by trade. The oil companies at the time were located in White Lake (Union Oil), which was north of Pecan Island located in White Lake, and Humble Oil was located south of Pecan Island in the marshes. Both companies had crew boats for their personnel. Little did the oil companies know how important these crew boats would be to the residents of Pecan Island come June 28th.

By 8:00 a.m. Thursday morning of June 27th the residents of Pecan Island knew they were in serious trouble. Hurricane Audrey apparently was going in closer to them on the west side. When some residents of Pecan Island looked out of their homes at a little after 8 a.m. most were stunned, across the south marshes was a tidal surge heading their way with waters carrying debris from the beach and marshes south of the island. People of the island realized they had nowhere to go. Some tried to flee by car only to end up walking in waist deep water to the nearest home. Others climbed into their attics for safety. Residents of the island were trapped in their homes to ride out the fury of the storm.



For one of the families of Pecan Island, Audrey took more than their home, the storm claimed the lives of 4 children.

Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Broussard

June 27, 1957

The Broussards lived on the western end of Pecan Island.

On the morning of Thursday June 27th, Mr. Stephen Broussard remembers getting up and looking outside to check the weather. The last report given the night before was that Audrey was to hit the Texas Coast. Mr. Stephen told his wife Florence the weather didn't look good and maybe they should get the children and leave. Mrs. Florence didn't want to disturb the sleeping children, so it was decided they would wait. It wasn't long after this discussion that Audrey hit, and the Broussards were caught in their home to ride out the storm.
Mrs. Florence's parents Mr. and Mrs. Sosthene Broussard had come to Stephen's home thinking that because it was new, it would withstand the hurricane better than their old home. As the water began rushing over the marshland, the Broussards knew they were in serious trouble. It wasn't long before they had to move into the attic of their home. As the water rose, the house began to float off the pillars, and move the house into the marsh north of Pecan Island towards White Lake. Inside the attic was Mr. and Mrs Stephen Broussard, and their seven children (five girls and two boys), and Mrs. Florence's parents. At the edge of White Lake, is where the home stalled as the wind shifted out of the southwest. When the wind changed direction, the house tilted, and the deep freezers slid and hit the wall. That's when the house broke apart, and Mr. Stephen stated they lost one of their little girls Estelle. After the house broke apart Mr. and Mrs. Stephen and three of the children (two boys and one girl) held onto a piece of the roof to ride out the storm in White Lake. Mr and Mrs Sosthene were able to hold onto three of their granddaughters, and climb onto a piece of a wall. Six of the Broussard children at this time were still alive. One of the children with Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Broussard was a small infant.

While fighting to stay afloat on the wall in the heavy winds and waves Mr. and Mrs. Sosthene lost two of the granddaughters that were with them. Mr. Stephen relates that the wind was so strong it ripped the clothing from their backs, and Mrs. Florence's feet and the back of her legs were raw from sliding on the roof trying to stay on. The nails on the roof also took their toll on the Broussards, it cut into their skin as they slid back and forth on the roof. They remember animals floating around them in the swirling waters, but the worst fear was the snakes the gulf's tidal surge had stirred up and made angry; the snakes would strike at anything. Most of the snakes were cottonmouth, which are poisonous. At around 1:00 a.m. on June 28th, the storm finally started to abate, and the wind and waters began to calm down. Little Stephen Jr. sustained a snake bite to the cheek and ear from a water moccasin as the family waited for help. Mr. Stephen left the wood they had drifted on through the night to find help. He realized the storm had left them on the north side of White Lake. He also needed water for little Stephen Jr.; they remember he was very thirsty. Mr. Stephen spotted a hunting camp that he was familiar with, and decided to swim for shore. He remembers diving into the waters full of angry snakes, and dead animals. Once reaching land, Mr. Stephen entered the camp and was shocked at how may snakes were inside. He recalls they were everywhere; on the bunks, floor, and striking at anything, so he decided to go around back and enter through the kitchen. There he saw nutria, raccoons, and other wildlife inside the kitchen. Mr. Stephen also had to contend with an angry cow, he used a two-by-four to deter the cow from hooking him.

Mr. Pie Touchet came upon Mr. Stephen while he as at the camp. After finding Mr. Stephen, and returning to the boat they heard yelling. That was when they found Mr. and Mrs. Sosthene Broussard and Carolyn their daughter. After picking up Mr. and Mrs. Sosthene and they continued on to pick up Mrs. Florence and the children. Mr. Touchet brought them to Intracoastal City where Mr. Earl Hardin Sr. and Mr. Bert Broussard proceeded to take them to Abbeville, Louisiana where they met an ambulance. Stephen Jr. died en route to the hospital from the snakebite he had sustained during the night.

Hurricane Audrey claimed four children of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Broussard's family. The three girls were never found, even though a search was conducted for nine days. Of the Broussard's seven children, only tow girls and one boy has survived. One child by the name of Brent was with an uncle during the storm, he survived. During the storm at its height, they thought their infant son Michael was also dead; because he was blue and cold, Mrs. Florence wouldn't let him go, and held onto him through the duration of the storm. The infant Michael survived the storm in his mother's faithful arms.

June 26, 1957 their were eight children in the Broussard family

June 28, 1957 their were four children in the Broussard family

IN MEMORY OF

Stephen Broussard Jr.: born February 14, 1951

Veronic Broussard: born August 11, 1953

Lerissa Broussard: born November 17, 1954

Estelle Broussard: born December 13, 1956





June 26, 1957

Mr Alvin Bourque

Wednesday, June 26th found Mr Bourque at work. He was employed by the Union Oil Company. Union Oil let Mr Bourque leave early due to the storm conditions.

Noticing the weather was deteriorating, Mr O'Neal, Mrs Alvin Bourque's father advised her that she should go to Abbeville, La and get her two daughters that where at her sisters home. Mrs Bourque explained to us the only way off the island was by a single two lane road; you had to cross a ferry and a pontoon bridge in the process of traveling to Abbeville. Needless to say these roads where hazardous at night. The trip to town often took well over an hour to accomplish. So noticing the weather was getting worse Mrs Bourque decided to take her fathers advice, and go to Abbeville to pick-up her children. On the way to town she stopped at her sisters home who lived to the east, and dropped her youngest child who was at the time six-months old. Upon returning from town, Goldie, Mrs Bourque's sister asked her to stay for she was worried about the weather worsening during the night, and her husband was located on Grand Chenier. Mr. and Mrs. Bourque and their three children stayed the night at Goldie's home. The following morning Mr Alvin Bourque left early to go check on his father and mother Mr and Mrs Jesse Bourque who lived three miles west of Goldies'. After drinking coffee and untying the family dog he returned to Goldie's home. In the meantime while Mr Bourque was gone, Mr and Mrs O'Neal Copell came to Goldie's.

Inside Goldie's home were Mr and Mrs O'Neal Copell, their younger daughter Adley, Mr and Mrs Bourque and their three children, and Goldie and her three children.
A little after 8:00 a.m. Mr O'Neal looked out Goldie's front door and noticed that the gulf waters were rolling inland and carrying debris. He was so stunned by the sight he called for the others to come and see. It wasn't long before the gates fence gave way to the swirling gulf waters. While the back fence began holding debris. As the debris piled up the water started to rise around the house, endangering all within. The adults decided to try and tear down the fence so the waters would continue to travel and not build up. Worrying the house would float off its fountain if they were not successful, Mr Bourque and his father-in-law Mr O'Neal and his younger daughter Adley where trying to break the back fence down. They looked across the yard to the east and Mrs Doty's house and noticed her and her son Amar coming across the field in water knee deep; they were hollering and pointing to the south. When Mr. Bourque and the others turned to look they saw Mr Marshall Veazey's home coming between the ridges towards Mrs Doty's home on a collision course. Mr Veazey's home stopped by the road. Mr O'Neal then told the others if this house begins to float that all the adults would take a child into their care, and climb into the attic. They where lucky the waters stopped at floor level of the home. Through the night the adults waited out the storm. Sometimes during the late afternoon the winds shifted from the other direction, the adults figured all hell had broken loose! The winds were worse now than before. Oak limbs about 5-6 inches in diameter where breaking out of the trees. Leaves where being stripped from the limbs. The wind continued to howl through the night into the early morning hours. The only thing that was on their side was the wind was now not pushing the gulf waters inland. Snakes were a problem, for they were angry from being washed around from the gulf tidal surge. Friday morning the 28
th people from the east side of the island where trying desperately to get to the west side of the island to check on family members. About a mile after the school heading west they ran into a problem. The gulf water currents had cut a ditch through he ridge and the current in the ditch was still very strong. After finally crossing the ditch, people proceeded to go westward on the island, astonished at the destruction the hurricane had wrought. Mr Bourque upon arriving at where his father's home had once been, couldn't believe his eyes. His fathers home was gone and he couldn't see it anywhere. This was a terrifying feeling for Mr Bourque. All he could do was agonize over what had happened to his father and mother and the others he knew had been there. The further west he went the more extensive the damage. Islander's knew the water was contaminated and most food had been lost. The only way off the island if the road wasn't passable was by boat, and the trip to the nearest town of Abbeville was a now a six hour trip one-way. The only way off the island now was by boat. Mr Bourque later found out his father's home and all within had survived the hurricane, but their home was in the middle of the marsh between the ridge and White Lake. The family had cut a hole in the roof of the attic. They noticed that sometime during the night, there where so many in the attic that a water moccasin had been trampled to death. Being in total darkness all night no one had known of the danger.



June 27th

The afternoon of June 27th four men returning from work began their trek to the island. When they arrived at Little Prairie Ferry, they were stunned, for beyond the ferry all they could see was water, no road was visible. Normally there would have been a road with marshland on both sides. The men where told they could not cross on the ferry, but eventually they did. The men then proceeded to try to run a boat to the island, but soon found out this wouldn't work. The marsh reeds that had come inland with the storm surge made passage with the little boat impossible. The men then climbed out of the boat and walk to the island holding onto the sides. They traveled approximately 8 miles this way. Once on the island at the old Humble landing, they noticed what they remember to be a Coast Guard boat. The men didn't realize, but they had made their trek during the eye of the storm.. Once they passed the boat landing the winds began to regain strength and pelt them with rain. They were still using a boat to get around on the island for the water was still to deep to walk. They met up with Mr Streeter Broussard who asked them to take him to the western end of the island to check on his brother and family.. The men then headed to the western end of the island. The trip was slow, and they often didn't know exactly where they were, because the island no longer looked the same. Once the men reached the western end, they went to Mr and Mrs Sosthene's home. At this time Mr Streeter was very concerned, because there was evidence no one was there. He asked the men to go with him to his brother's home, Stephen Broussard. When they reached Mr Stephen's home there was no longer a house there. Mr Streeter grabbed his head in anguish and said "There all gone. There all dead.", needless to say this was a heart-wrenching time for Mr Streeter Broussard. There where no words the other men could tell Mr Broussard to ease his mind. Mr Streeter would later lean that he had lost a nephew and three nieces. The aftermath of Audrey was devastating to the residents of the island. Most homes where destroyed, and others where filled with mud and debris from the tidal surge. The long process of the cleanup was about to begin.

For at least two weeks everyone from the island had to leave, because of water contamination. Mostly the men of the island where the ones to initially return to begin the rebuilding of homes. Most women stayed away from the island for at least one month. The majority of the women stayed away longer. The few who did return sooner, helped to feed the men who where working.



The island today no longer looks like a storm could have devastated it back in 1957. We the younger generation are told how the island use to look. We have pictures to help us understand the way of life before Audrey, and we also have our memories of growing up.

The western end of the island is lower than the eastern end. On the west end the water mark was around 13 feet. At the center of the island is the school building, it is said it is 14 feet above sea level. The storm surge did not crest over the ridge at the school. One mile further east thee water from the tidal surge rose 3-4 feet. Two miles east of the school the water rose 2-3 feet.