Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What's Up With Cameron?

While much of the focus continues on New Orleans, little has been said about the areas hit by hurricane Rita. I had the opportunity to travel down to Cameron, LA and see things first hand. As much time as I have spent in New Orleans and the surrounding areas, I had not idea what total devastation looks like.

As we traveled down Hwy 27 from I-10, we noticed that the marshes were littered with debris like someone had a bag of trash that spilled on the side of the road. The difference was that this debris consisted of windows sills, refrigerator doors and an occasional house. I had to verify with the locals that there were no houses in these marshes. Frankly, I’m not sure how they are going to clean it up.

When we go to the turn off for Cameron, we quickly realized that all landmarks for navigation were gone. After talking with Parish officials the only building really standing is the courthouse which is the only building that survived hurricane Audry back in the 1957. Most of the Parish government is working out of trailers circled around the courthouse.

There is a building behind the courthouse that used to be a dance hall. I knew that the entire Parish evacuated and there had been only one death so I was surprised that the sign on the door had a nice inscription about the gems of Cameron Parish being inside. When the coroner arrived and opened the door, I saw hundreds of new caskets. Perplexed, I asked where they were from. These turned out to be all of the caskets that came out of the ground when the storm surge came in. Apparently, cemeteries actually do a good job tagging bodies so you know which site and plot they came from. The coroner had to ID every body, get them into a new casket and get them back to the proper plot. The short time I was there 4 or 5 families came looking for loved ones remains displaced from the storm. Sobering.

Rita is being re-classified as a category 1 or 2 storm. The people of Cameron Parish are laughing and the ludicrousness of this. There are reports of wind measuring devices at the large oil field reporting gusts of 140mph that lasted 30 minutes. Combine this with an 8 to 10 foot storm surge and you can see why there is little left.

I haven’t seen this “officially” but according to the leader's information, Rita sets the record for the most linear miles of coast affected in terms of size. It was actually bigger in size than Katrina. Fortunately, it hit the least populated stretch of the Gulf that it could have. At some point I’ll update on things in Lake Charles, LA and Orange, TX where Rita continued to damage things.

The people whose homes are torn apart and damaged from the surge are not having issues with flood insurance. The people whose homes are completely gone are having issues. Typically, if an area has damaged home and one or a few are completely missing, it indicates a high wind typically associated with tornados which can be in the outer bands of the storm. Flood is covered by flood insurance and wind damage is covered by home owners insurance. The home owners in Cameron Parish that had wind damage are having difficulty getting their claims paid.