The Last Island Hurricane

| August 8, 2008 @ 10:36 pm | 2 Replies

Isle Derniere, or Last Island, was a tiny resort on the Louisiana coast, about 110 miles southwest of New Orleans. The small spit of land was just twenty two miles long and less than one mile wide in most places. At its highest point, the island was less than six feet above the Gulf of Mexico. It had twenty small cottages and a two story hotel, called Muggah’s Hotel. Many prominent Louisiana families vacationed there to enjoy the cool breezes off the Gulf of Mexico. They were shuttled to and from the island by a steamboat named The Star.

On Saturday, August 9, 1856, the signs of an approaching hurricane were apparent, including roaring breakers that pounded the shore and a brilliant sunset. Four hundred and thirteen people were staying on the island that day.

By late morning on Sunday the 10th, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico were rising rapidly. Evacuation was impossible, as the pounding surf had destroyed the wooden docks of the ferry landing. By noon, the wind had increased and the surf was rapidly moving further and further up the beach. Winds mounted to hurricane force by mid-afternoon and a storm surge rushed across the island.

Survivors from the island huddled in the hotel, but it gradually was breaking apart. The Star picked up survivors and the ship escaped being sunk by the fearsome storm when the Captain ordered the upper woodwork of the top deck torn away.

The Last Island Hurricane is the tenth strongest hurricane ever to strike the U.S. mainland with a central pressure at landfall of 934 millibars. More than two hundred people perished in the storm. Today, all you will find on the Isles Derniere are pelicans and other birds.

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Bill Murray is the President of The Weather Factory. He is the site's official weather historian and a weekend forecaster. He also anchors the site's severe weather coverage. Bill Murray is the proud holder of National Weather Association Digital Seal #0001 @wxhistorian

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