Lost Coffins of Hurricane Audrey - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Lost Coffins of Hurricane Audrey

June 27, 2007

Reported by: Britney Glaser

On this day 50 years ago, in the early morning hours, Hurricane Audrey made landfall.  Cameron residents were taken by surprise, because they were expecting a Category 2 storm to actually hit the following afternoon.  These residents had listened to radio and television reports for the latest on Hurricane Audrey, but the updates were wrong.

Overnight reports said the storm had winds of a only 100 miles an hour and that residents had time to prepare for the dangerous storm surge - but what forecasters and Cameron residents did not know, is that the storm had rapidly intensified and was moving much faster.

Those Cameron residents went to bed thinking they could safely leave in the morning, and this turned into a tragic decision for more than 400 men, women and children.

Residents of Cameron woke up to high winds and a storm surge that wiped their town out while sending houses, cars, cattle and people floating away from their original point.  Entire cemeteries were made empty as water sent coffins floating into places where they would never be found again.  This is the story of one family who lost the remains of a loved one when Audrey's storm surge hit the defenseless town.

From a distance, this open piece of land looks pretty ordinary - but, step a little closer and you will see remnants of an old cemetery that once held more than a dozen bodies.  This is the cemetery that held the remains of Darlene Crosby and Adley Dyson's young brother, Ezett. But, then came Hurricane Audrey.

Ezett's small coffin was just one of the countless coffins that washed away in Cameron Parish with Audrey's storm surge.  "It's just an empty feeling," says Adley, "until they find them and put them back."  

While some remains were found back in the 50's with Audrey's clean-up, to this day the Dyson family doesn't know the final resting place for their brother's remains.  "They found child body parts," says Darlene, "but back then, they didn't have the DNA technology."  Adley says, "They just put him back in the ground, they didn't know who was who, they don't know if it was actually my younger brother or not."

Even though numerous coffins washed away with Hurricane Audrey, the people of Cameron Parish continue to bury, and re-bury their loved ones in the place they call "home."  "We've been living here all our life," says Adley, "and I know that's where they wanna be."

Darlene doesn't plan on going anywhere else, either.  "This is our roots," says Darlene, "I know I wanna be buried here and I hope if we ever have another hurricane and I get washed away, that the same great people who helped find those coffins will be out there looking for me and whoever gets washed away too, you know, I'm not scared of that."

At the Cameron Baptist Cemetery, tall wooden sticks signify the graves of the most recent coffins to wash away from a storm surge - this time, with Hurricane Rita.  These markers are evident of the pain that still remains as another generation hopes for the return of their loved ones.

Adley and Darlene say the emptiness remains for those families that have never found the remains of their loved ones.  It is a void that might not ever be filled as so many graves remain empty.

Note: Adley and Darlene's mother, Ludie passed away in the late 90's and her coffin washed away with Hurricane Rita.  Because of increased technology in identifying the deceased, though, a positive identification was given and she has been re-buried in the Cameron Baptist Cemetery. 

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