Waiting for an Oily Storm Surge in Lafitte

Blog post by Samantha King, LABB outreach volunteer and Tulane Social Work student

The oil hasn’t hit Lafitte, Louisiana yet. But the locals, most of whom have spent their entire lives trawling the bayous, predict that the oil will hit any day now. One marina owner told us that the oil was only a ten to fifteen minute boat ride away, or about seven miles.

For the folks of Lafitte the only thing scarier than their bayous filling with crude is thinking about where all of that oil will end up after a surge from a tropical storm or hurricane. The town of Lafitte is incredibly vulnerable to flooding. Storm surges from the Gulf of Mexico can push through Bayou Barataria and spill over the banks into Lafitte. Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike all caused severe damage to homes and businesses. Ike was so bad that even the homes that were elevated after Katrina and Rita were flooded.

So, with 2010 hurricane season looking like an active one, the residents of Lafitte are scared that if a storm hits, their homes and businesses will be flooded with oil. The 90 year old log cabin, built from cypress logs that were floated down the waterways to the building site, has withstood countless storms; but what if it was flooded with oil? The family-run restaurant, that opened twenty six years ago and only buys local seafood, has re-opened in the past, but could it re-open if it filled with oil?

One woman, born and raised in Lafitte, told us that she fears she will not be able to come back to Lafitte if it floods this summer. She fears that Lafitte may become uninhabitable. And, that’s not just scary, that’s devastating.

But it is also the worst case scenario. This past Monday, one Lafitte resident told us that there is now a “shape and order” to the cleanup effort. And we did see a change from weeks prior; the marinas were bustling with workers going out to the bayou to lay boom. Maybe they will be able to keep the oil out of the bayou, and maybe Lafitte won’t flood this summer. But that sounds a little too hopeful. For now, all the residents of Lafitte can do is wait. And, hope for the best.

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