At 150 mph, Ida equaled two other hurricanes on Sunday for the strongest in recorded history to strike Louisiana. One was Laura, still fresh in memory after blasting Cameron Parish and therefore the Lake Charles area in 2020. It killed 30 people. the opposite 150 mph storm dates from 1856, before hurricanes got official names, and killed quite 200 on or near what’s today a series of islets referred to as Isles Dernieres.
“On the night of Aug. 10, 1856, a strong hurricane struck the Last Island off the southern tip of Terrebonne Parish. the ocean rose within the darkness and trapped many summer vacationers visiting the favored resort. Wind-driven waves 8 feet high raked the island and tore it in two. By morning, everything standing upright was broken, splintered, and washed away, including all of the island’s trees, its casinos, a hotel, and therefore the summer homes of made New Orleans families. quite 200 people died. Many were crushed et al. drowned after being struck by wreckage within the maelstrom.”
That’s what The Times-Picayune wrote in 2002, in its Washing Away series about the state’s loss of coastal land. Here’s how Smithsonian magazine set the scene during a 2017 article: “In the 1840s, wealthy Louisianans built the primary of 100 summer homes on Last Island. Visitors came by steamboat to swim within the sea, paddle out on excursion boats, walk the beaches, explore the island by horse and carriage and twirl on a carousel. Muggah’s Hotel, the most important structure on the island, included a restaurant and ballroom and offered bowling and billiards.”
As the hurricane advanced on Saturday, Aug. 9, “Isle Derniere’s marshes were submerged, and therefore the cattle on the island were pacing and lowing. The storm grew to gale force. The Star, a steamboat ferry headed toward the island, lost its bearings within the storm, and by Sunday morning, the crew debated whether to show back to its mainland port. But Captain Abraham Smith, concerned about the fate of these left on the island, insisted on returning amid the hurricane — a choice that saved many lives.” The hurricane struck that evening.
“‘It seemed all the aerial currents in creation had been turned upon us,’ recalled Reverend R.S. McAllister of Thibodaux. ‘Fiery lightning almost constantly illumined the heavens. … The Gulf upon one side and therefore the bay upon the opposite were advancing upon us.’ “Sugar planter Thomas Mille’s slaves fled their timber shack because it began to blow apart and that they ran to Mille’s house. One slave, Richard, tried to convince Mille to maneuver his family and slaves into a stable built with sturdy, deeply driven pilings. Mille refused. “Houses shook, slid down the beach, lost their roofs, and tore apart. Many residents raced for the hotel, hoping for refuge, but it, too, was blown to pieces. The exposed men and ladies began to perish, bludgeoned by flying debris or drowned as a 13-foot storm surge inundated the island.
“Survivors outlasted the storm by clinging to anything they might. McAllister and 11 others raced to a carousel and hung onto it all night because it spun within the wind. Many refugees from the hotel … took refuge behind its cistern. Though the Star’s top decks were ripped off, its hull stayed afloat and provided protect 160 people. … “The next morning, survivors wandered Isle Derniere, surrounded by the dead. … A saloonkeeper and a crewman from the Star found a sailboat that would still float and began for the mainland. Arriving in Brashear City (now Morgan City), they alerted the crew of a steamer, which received Isle Derniere to rescue the survivors three days after the storm.” The hurricane split Last Island in two. It remains uninhabited to the present day.