Cleaning up and digging out were the order of the day here in the Teche Area as soon as Hurricane Laura spun its destructive path through Louisiana, up to Arkansas and on to the East Coast.
The storm surge here wasn’t as bad as Hurricane Rita in 2005, according to a New Iberia outdoorsman who worked 31 years in and around Vermilion Bay as an enforcement agent with the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. A lifelong Sorrell resident said damage was less than he expected at Cypremort Point.
And, based on early observations by a St. Martinville hunter and fisherman, the Atchafalaya Basin and Lake Dauterive-Fausse Pointe fared better than it did during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Hurricane Gustav in 2008.
“I just came back from there (Cypremort Point). I was helping a friend of mine (clean up),” Keith Delahoussaye said Friday afternoon, the day after Hurricane Laura made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane at 1 a.m. Thursday near Cameron.
“The surge wasn’t as bad as Rita, a little bit less at the Point, anyway. The problem you have with that, it throws a lot of Roseau cane and marsh grass” on land, Delahoussaye said.
The retired LDWF enforcement agent compared Hurricane Laura’s effects on Marsh Island to that of Hurricane Lily in 2002. He said the storm clogged Oyster Bayou and many duck ponds with lilies that made them unfishable for years until those areas were unclogged by Hurricane Rita.
“I’m afraid this thing did the same thing Rita did,” Delahoussaye said.
Overall, saltwater fishing prospects are good in inside waters.
“Fishing-wise, I think it’s going to get good if we get a break in the weather. I know the surge had to bring in saltier and better water. I think after everything settles down, fishing will be great,” he said.
Josh St. Germain of Sorrell said at the height of Hurricane Laura there was 6 feet of water on top of the road that winds the length of Cypremort Point. He has been a regular at the Point since he was in diapers at the camp of the late Don St. Germain.
“I went Thursday right after the water dropped. A lot of people were starting to clean up,” he said.
Apparently, piers and docks may have suffered much of the damage. While St. Germain didn’t survey many piers, he did see one with extensive damage as he was driving to his grandmother’s camp, where there was mud underneath the first floor, at a majority of camps. Marsh grass and Roseau cane also covered the Point.
“Everybody seemed to fare pretty well damage-wise. There wasn’t a whole lot of damage to camps,” he said.
High water also dealt yet another lick on the oft-battered Bayview Inn at the end of the Point, according to the report from St. Germain. He saw extensive damage to the siding and lower walls.
A Facebook video posted Thursday afternoon showed more damage inside the iconic structure. There was broken glass, shattered cabinets and a lot of debris.
As Ryan Mouton, the poster, noted toward the end of the video when he ventured outside, “Well, the deck made it.”
Later, in another short video, he said, “Overall, we’ll come back. We did it last time. About a year ago.”
We wish Godspeed to Mouton and all the businesses, residents and camp owners at Cypremort Point.
One of the first field reports from the freshwater scene post-Hurricane Laura came from Carroll Delahoussaye of St. Martinville, who fishes sac-a-lait and bass as much or more than anyone in the area. He enjoyed a heckuva sac-a-lait fishing run when the nation’s last great overflow swamp first dropped to a fishable level in June.
Delahoussaye, 70, and many other freshwater fishermen who frequent both the Atchafalaya Basin and Lake Fausse Pointe voiced concerns in the days leading up to landfall by Hurricane Laura. They remembered all too well the total fish kill in the Basin and, to an extent, the lake, in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in August 1992.
An estimated 182 million fish perished. The devastating kill didn’t discriminate as an estimated 100 million shad, 23 million bream, 7 million sac-a-lait, 5 million bass, 11 million gaspergou, 12 million buffalo, 11 million catfish and 1 million carp died in the great overflow swamp because the water was low, the bottom was stirred up and leaves from countless downed trees decayed in the water. The fish were killed by oxygen depletion.
An extensive fish kill happened again, to a lesser extent, in the Atchafalaya Basin after Hurricane Gustav in 1992.
I saw it first-hand, including the destruction of thousands upon thousands of trees, which made me sick. Many others saw it, too.
“Of course, this wasn’t Andrew, but when I went to Sandy Cove (Boat Landing, soon after Hurricane Andrew), I could see Grevemberg,” Delahoussaye said, noting the opposite shoreline along G.A. Cut was devoid of standing trees. The trees snapped and broken during the hurricane, a Cat 5 packing winds up to 175 mph at one point in St. Mary Parish.
Many anglers, both saltwater and freshwater, feared the worst from Hurricane Laura. She was packing winds of 150 mph.
Delahoussaye took a ride in his pickup truck around midday Thursday to Bayou Benoit Boat Landing. Along the way, he saw no trees down on either side of the West Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee.
At the public boat ramp, Bayou Benoit was approximately 2 feet higher than a week earlier and the water was muddy, he said. He saw no proliferation of leaves in the water.
“I’ve got my hopes up. It’s better than expected but the whole storm was better than expected (as far as its impact on this area,” Delahoussaye said Thursday night.
He noted the borrow pit canal on the lake side of the levee had swells rather than waves because of higher than normal wind speeds. So, he said, he could imagine what the main lakes were like at the time.
The former St. Martinville Senior High head football coach who recently retired there as AD said he planned to take his boat Saturday (after deadline for this column) to many of his favorite fishin’ holes to see if there are any fish kills in the Atchafalaya Basin. Delahoussaye has spent a lifetime fishing the waters on this side of the Atchafalaya River.
“I’m just going to have to wait and see until I get back in the woods. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed we don’t have a big fish kill,” he said.
DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.