Louisiana Hurricane History:
National Weather Service
Lake Charles, LA
August 26th, 1852: A tropical storm formed north of the
Dominican Republic on the 19th, then moved west through the Florida Straits. In
the Gulf, movement became northwest and the hurricane made landfall at the Mouth
of the Pascagoula River on the night of the 25th. It was hardly noticed on Lake
Pontchartrain. Four new channels were cut through Chandeleur Island. The storm
claimed the 55 foot tall Chandeleur Island lighthouse and replaced it with a
broad 10 foot deep lagoon (Cipra). The keepers were rescued three days later,
on the verge of starvation. The schooners Josephine and Walter M. went ashore
on Cat Island.
September 15-16th, 1855: A storm swept out of the Gulf
across Fort St. Phillip and Lake Borgne, before moving into Mississippi. It was
considered the worst since 1819 and was felt as far east as Apalachicola Bay.
At Proctorville (Yscloski), bathhouses and the wharf were consumed by the waves
that ran inland. Water was as deep as 4 feet on Proctor's Landing. At Lake
Borgne, water began to rise during the afternoon of the 15th. A "smart
breeze" was blowing by sunset. Winds had increased to a "perfect
hurricane" by midnight. A number of homes fell victim.
At Cat Island, the light keeper's dwelling was wrecked and its lighthouse
was in "severe peril". Most everything along the Mississippi coast
was swept away with the tide. The Atchafalaya and Ship Shoal lightships were
torn from their moorings and grounded. Both lightships were repaired and
returned to service in 1856 (Cipra). The ship Venice was pushed into the banks
of the Mississippi River and sprang a leak by the strong gale. The steamer J.S.
Chenoweth sank in the Mighty Mississippi.
August 10-12th, 1856: Hurricane strikes Isle Derniere,
Last Island, a pleasure resort south- southwest of New Orleans. The highest
points were under 5 feet of water. The resort hotel and surrounding gambling
establishments were destroyed, over 200 people perished, and the island was left
void of vegetation and split in half. Only one terrified cow survived on the
Isle. Last Island is now only a haven for pelicans and other sea birds.
The rain total at New Orleans reached 13.14". Every house in the town
of Abbeville was leveled, including the St. Mary Magdalen Church. Rains from
the storm flooded the Mermentau River and destroyed crops along the bottom
lands. Area rice fields in Plaquemines parish were under several feet of salt
water. Nearly all rice was lost. Orange trees were stripped of their fruit.
The steamer Nautilus foundered. The lone survivor cling to a bale of cotton and
washed ashore sometime later.
1860: Number 1, August 11th On the fourth anniversary of
the Last Island disaster, another hurricane made landfall in Southeast
Louisiana. The Mississippi rose 3 feet during the storm. The old site of
Proctorville, now Yscolski, had hardly a house left standing... its lighthouse
also leveled. The Bayou St. John lighthouse was destroyed. The Cat Island
lighthouse was demolished, along with its keeper's dwelling. The Island was
inundated, causing the loss of 300 cows.
Storm surges extended eastward along the entire Mississippi coast. The
sugarcane crop laid in ruin. Trees were uprooted throughout the Plaquemines and
Balize (Pilottown). Up to ten feet of water inundated the region. Crops of rice
and corn were entirely ruined. The influence of the storm extended eastward to
Pensacola, where it rained 3.03" and a strong gale ensued on the 11th.
Over 47 people died...damaged totaled $260,000.
1860: Number 2, September 14-15th Another hurricane
struck near the Mouth of the Mississippi, worst at Balize (Pilottown). The gale
raged for about 20 hours across extreme Southeast Louisiana, and large hail
fell. Every building in Balize was either blown down by the wind or washed away
by the storm surge. The third Bayou St. John lighthouse was damaged beyond
repair. Lower portions of Plaquemines parish were covered by several feet of
water, drowning several people. Tides rose to 6 feet above the high tide mark.
All wharves along the south side of Lake Pontchartrain were destroyed. But
it was no better in Mississippi...the lighthouse at Bay St. Louis was swept away
along with one of its hotels. In total, damages exceeded $1 million.
1860: Number 3, October 2-3rd A third hurricane within
seven weeks produced severe damage to houses, businesses, boats, and crops as
far inland as Baton Rouge. The storm made landfall in the Atchafalaya Swamp and
swept northeast. It only carried with it a 12 to 15 inch storm surge at Port a
la Hache, likely due to its rapid movement.
Whatever was left of the sugar crop, along with the machinery employed in
producing it, laid in ruin. Heavy losses were reported in Vermilion, Feliciana,
Alvermarle, Bayou Lafourche, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernards, and Terrebonne as
well. Eleven miles of railroad track were washed out near New Orleans, where
the rain total was 5.02" during the storm.
The system continued northeast and produced the highest winds Natchez had
seen since the Tornado of 1840. Trees fell in great numbers in Concordia Parish
as they experienced stiff north winds. Gales were seen eastward to Pensacola,
as with the first storm in 1860.
Just on the Louisiana side of the Sabine river lies a vast expanse of
marshland. Within this region is the town of Johnson's Bayou (now known as
Johnson Bayou). French fur traders traversed the area during the 1700's to
barter with the local Native American tribe, the Attakapas. The first permanent
settler was Daniel Johnson, who arrived in 1790. Cotton was the town's primary
crop. This location was cutoff and virtually isolated from the outside world
September 13th, 1865: Hurricane strikes extreme
Southwestern Louisiana. Considered similar to Audrey in strength, but smaller
in areal extent. Niblet's Bluff was completely destroyed. One person died in
Johnson Bayou where many homes were leveled. The area around Calcasieu (Big)
Lake was inundated by the storm surge. Grand Chenier was also put under water
by the storm, where several more people died. Fragments of furniture and homes
were found afloat several miles up the Calcasieu. Twenty-five people lost their
lives to the hurricane, most at Leesburg (now Cameron).
The tides were high as far east as the Mississippi River, where rains and
high winds were noted on the 13th. Extensive flooding occurred in Feliciana
Parish. The entire Balize settlement and its "Pilottown" were
abandoned years before. Everything left in the area was obliterated during the
storm. The ship Lone Star was wrecked while in Galveston Bay, and vessels
trying to save the survivors almost foundered as well.
October 22-23rd, 1865: Hurricane affected Louisiana
* Author's current affiliation: NWS National Centers for
Environmental Prediction - Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, Camp Springs,