Cheniere Caminada Hurricane
More than two thousand people across South Louisiana lost their lives in the Cheniere Caminada Hurricane, making it one of Louisiana’s deadliest storms.
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What were the effects of the Cheniere Caminada storm?
In 1893 a late-season hurricane hit South Louisiana’s barrier islands at Barataria Bay. A sixteen-foot storm surge hit Cheniere Caminada, flooding residents, livestock, crops, and property, and effectively wiping out the fishing village. By today’s estimate the Cheniere Caminada storm was a Category 4 hurricane at landfall. More than two thousand people across South Louisiana lost their lives, making it one of Louisiana’s deadliest hurricanes.
Cheniere Caminada, a well-established fishing village about a mile wide and two and a half miles long, had been beautiful that Sunday. The weather changed mid-afternoon, sending seagulls and pelicans inland. As the rains started, cows grazing in marshy grass also started moving inland. After a night of extreme winds and rain, it became clear a hurricane was moving ashore. Cheniere Caminada’s 1,471 residents tried to ride out the storm all night. Inundated by sixteen-foot storm surges, this task became challenging on a marshy peninsula. Around 3 a.m. the storm’s impact faded, leaving wreckage behind as it passed through Barataria Bay and toward the Mississippi River.
In the wake of the catastrophic storm, shock spread across the state. Two New Orleans newspapers chartered boats with supplies, medicine, ice, and water to send to the damaged areas. Rescue teams headed west to wreckage sites, including Cheniere Caminada and Grand Isle, the latter a popular summer resort for New Orleanians. Most of Grand Isle was spared, with property damage to now-empty resort hotels and venues, and comparatively few deaths (estimated at twenty-eight to thirty). However, Cheniere Caminada was a different story. When rescue teams arrived they found the island’s residents struggling to survive. Rose C. Falls reported in Cheniere Caminada, Or, The Wind of Death: The Story of the Storm in Louisiana that seawater swept “every mouthful of food and every drop of fresh water; for these people had neither wells nor springs, and drank only rainwater caught and stored in cask-like cisterns of staves and hoops, which stood above ground.” Of the 1,471 residents before the hurricane, only 696 survived. The local cemetery had flooded, splitting open graves. Death was everywhere on the island.
As Falls reported, the hurricane continued to damage communities further inland from Cheniere Caminada. Residents of Grand Terre took refuge at Fort Livingston. Along the lower Mississippi River, the storm destroyed at least ten plantations. Sugar cane and rice crops were destroyed, and animals drowned. In the majority-Black communities of Point Celeste and Tropical Bend, in Plaquemines Parish, church structures were extensively damaged, and more lives were lost. Tornadoes hit Pointe-à-la-Hache, ripping up the newly finished jail and courthouse, and overturning cars. Several tugboats and ships were wrecked at the state’s Quarantine Station, causing $100,000 in damage.
How is the Cheniere Caminada Hurricane remembered?
The storm caused damage from Louisiana to Mobile, Alabama. The residents of Cheniere Caminada were the hardest hit by the storm. Many of its residents moved away after the storm, and today not much remains of the community that existed before.
Despite Cheniere Caminada being wiped off the map, three significant pieces tell the story of the storm. Louisiana author Kate Chopin, who frequently spent summers on neighboring Grand Isle, wrote the short essay “At Cheniere Caminada” within days of the storm when she heard about the rescue and relief efforts. Cheniere Caminada, Or, The Wind of Death, a collection of Cheniere Caminada residents’ accounts of the storm compiled by author Rose Falls, was published later that year. And finally, Chopin recalled the hurricane and its effects on the region in her most well-known work, The Awakening, a novel published in 1899.