First, a little scene-setting. Cameron Parish occupies the marshy rim of Louisiana’s southwest corner, bordering Sabine Pass, Sabine Lake and Texas to the west and equally marshy Vermilion Parish to the east. Residents mostly occupy long strands of “high” ground called cheniers, which are ancient sand dune ridges. They provide what passes for elevation in this part of the state and that’s a generous description. Cheniers may be several feet high at the most. You can easily spot them: Most highways follow them across the parish and in the distance, long stands of hardwood trees rising from miles of flat marsh denote them.
With its elevation so low, Cameron Parish has taken quite a beating in the last century. There was the deadly Hurricane Audrey, an early-season Category 4 hurricane that roared ashore faster and stronger than anyone expected in 1957, drowning hundreds of people (entire families in some cases). Hurricane Rita’s eye steamrolled the area in 2005, wiping out everything. Three years later, Hurricane Ike again submerged the parish as the storm struck Texas.
Like anyone on a storm-prone coast, residents adapt. The Cameron Parish Library operated out of a bookmobile until they built this base flood elevation-compliant new home. I’ve yet to go inside as I never seem to get to it during opening hours, but I can’t wait to see it. How inviting is that little reading veranda there on the right? I’d love to get the story behind the decision to rebuild it. And just what do you do to prepare a library for a hurricane?
I’ve taken the coast highway (Louisiana 82) for years, watching Johnsons Bayou and nearby Constance Beach, Holly Beach and Cameron rebuild taller and stronger. Johnsons Bayou’s school was rebuilt a few years ago–elevated, of course.
It’s been great progress, but there are so many reminders along that fragile stretch of coast. Steps to nowhere, slabs overtaken by brush and the curious way broad oaks twist and lean all in the same direction, pointing inland. Yet, many people come back every time.