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You are here -> HOME - RETROVILLE - 1957 - In the News - Hurricane Audrey
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Welcome to Retroville! It's 1957!
Early season tropical storms often form in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, or the Bay of Campeche off the coast of Mexico. June of 1957 was no different.

On June 24, 1957, the National Weather Service (then the Weather Bureau) noted a tropical storm forming in the Bay of Campeche. They watched and waited as Tropical Storm Audrey gathered steam and began moving north.

As the storm moved into the southern Gulf of Mexico, the Weather Service upgraded the storm to a hurricane. Audrey continued to intensify.

On June 26, 1957, the National Weather Service issued warnings to low-lying coastal areas in Texas and Louisiana prompting evacuations. With the advent of television, the warnings reached more residents that the old radio broadcasts might have. But the warnings fell on deaf ears in many parts of Louisiana as old-timers ignored the warnings figuring the storm was just another tropical storm like so many that had passed over them before. They would be wrong this time. Dead wrong.

On June 27, 1957, the storm continued northward and made landfall along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. The Category 4 hurricane (based on the Saffir-Simpson Scale) pushed a 12' storm surge up over the Texas and Louisiana coastlines. Making landfall at Beaumont, Texas, Audrey pushed Gulf waters inland more than 25 miles.

The Lake Charles area of Louisiana was devastated. Homes were destroyed with many being washed out to sea. Offshore oil installations suffered heavy damage. Entire communities vanished as the water rushed in, then rushed back out taking everything in its path.

When the storm finally passed and clean-up began, rescuers would report the official death toll at 390, but others have estimated that the loss of life was as high as 500-600. Property damage was estimated at $150 million.

One of the hardest hit areas was an island community in Cameron Parish, Louisiana. Hurricane Audrey was one of the first hurricanes to be observed by weather radar. However, due to Audrey's rapid motion and the limited communications infrastructure in Cameron Parish, this additional data was not effective in preventing loss of life.

Some blamed inadequate warnings issued by the Weather Bureau (now the National Weather Service) for the large number of fatalities. In Bartie v. U.S., Cameron resident Whitney Bartie sued the Weather Bureau for negligence, blaming the deaths of his wife and five children on insufficient warnings from the Bureau. The court ruled in favor of the Bureau, citing expert testimony that the warnings issued "were as accurate as could be expected at that time." The ruling was upheld on appeal, and numerous other similar cases were withdrawn before coming before the Court.

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Hurricane Audrey's path during the 1957 disaster Hurricane Audrey's path of destruction as plotted by the National Weather Service. Clearly the impact on Louisiana was devasting as the storm made a bee-line for the low-lying coastal communities.
Hurricane Audrey - satellite image showing the destructive storm as it made landfall over Texas and Louisiana in 1957
Hurricane Audrey's strength and size are evident in this rare image from the National Weather Service that captures the monster storm as it makes landfall over the Gulf Coast of Texas and the low-lying Lousiana coast.

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