Early Audrey Reports

Reported by Lee Peck

Unlike today, there were no 24 hour news channels to deliver instant reports. But that's not to say the story of hurricane Audrey went untold. KPLC's Lee Peck uncovered file footage from the very first news crew to land in Cameron.

It began with an annoucement from 1957 newscaster Brooks Reed:"Tonight's program is devoted entirely to a story of a town that died a sudden death. The little Southwest Louisiana gulf coast town of Cameron."

In the days after the storm, those words came from a newscast sponsored by Esso Gas that showed the world the destruction left behind by hurricane Audrey.

Brooks Reed continued with Cameron's somber story, "thousands of trees toppled to the ground, usually in a manner that seems grotesquely neat. Like some giant gardener had placed them together in a row like undesirable weeds plucked desperately from the ground - roots and all."

The black and white footage was filmed as a three man crew made their way from Baton Rouge.

Brooks Reed:"From the air it was a picture of desolation, a picture of ruin, but from the air you couldn't get to the entire feeling of the scene."

To get the full story, the crew landed in Cameron to document ground zero.

Brooks Reed:"There's a speed limit sign 25 miles per hour... Hurricane Audrey certainly exceeded that. Weather reports sad the winds got up to better than 100 miles per hour. They must have been much better to do the damage they've done."

Grim evidence of Audrey's twisted sense of humor was everywhere.

Brooks Reed:"Cars and boats have often swapped places. The boats are on land, automobiles submerged in water."...."In the heart of Cameron, right in the heart of the town. A stove and a refrigerator... a dead cat, scenes like these are common place in Cameron."

Amid the rubble they find a record of when Audrey made landfall that tragic Thursday night.

Brooks Reed:"This clock stopped just a few minutes after eight o'clock. The hurricane stopped, the hurricane blew in the major force at 8 o'clock and life stopped for the town of Cameron....You can see in people's eyes the horror of what has happened. They smile occasionally with the mouth, but not with the eyes."

Despite their tremendous loss, the people of Cameron somehow found the strength to move forward.

Brooks Reed:"But even in spite of his own loss, he's worked constantly all through the night and day without sleep or rest in order to help the injured."

Others weren't so lucky, more than four hundred of Cameron's three thousand residents died.

Brooks Reed:"Here bodies being taken to the ice house in Cameron, which is serving as a temporary morgue."

For nearly 50 years, Audrey would be the benchmark of hurricanes, the lesson the gulf coast learned the hard way, the story and images the world would never forget.

Reed's final words of that evening's newscast:"That's the story of Cameron. The story of despair. The story of tragedy. That's the news tonight."