BELLE CHASSE, La. — Since 1851, more storms have hit Plaquemines Parish than any other parish in Louisiana.
“We don’t look forward to this time of year,” says Plaquemines Parish President Kirk Lepine. “I feel hurricane season is lasting eight months, instead of six. You know, after last year, preparing for eight storms, it was a tough year.”
NOAA’s historical hurricane tracking data shows that 55 storms have hit the parish, including 18 hurricanes, 31 tropical storms, and 12 tropical depressions.
“Plaquemines juts out into the Gulf of Mexico, 90 miles south of New Orleans, like a long finger,” says parish historian Rod Lincoln. “Some people call it the toe of the boot of Louisiana.”
This makes the parish vulnerable to storms on both sides.
“In addition to being split down the middle by the Mississippi River, we are surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico,” says Lincoln. “We are crisscrossed by dozens of bayous and canals. From virtually any place in the parish, probably within one mile, you could have brackish water, freshwater, and saltwater.”
Lincoln points out that Plaquemines Parish is hit by a major hurricane about five times per century. Being surrounded by water makes hurricanes even more dangerous. But, it also provides the environment that makes the parish rich in fishing, farming, and the oil and gas industry.
“We pride ourselves on our seafood,” says Lepine. “I don’t think you’ll find better seafood. I don’t think you’ll find a better fishing capital of the world than Venice.”
Lepine says Plaquemines Parish is also the first line of defense for the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain against storm surge. And, he says the parish takes that role seriously.
“From Belle Chasse to what we call Captain Larry’s, there is the 100-year protection,” he says. “A little bit further down, we go into the 50-year protection. And we go a little further toward Myrtle Grove. As of now, we are in the 25-year protection. Those levees are constantly being built.”
“We are 65 miles long, that sits out in the gulf,” says Lepine. “So, we are very vulnerable. But, we know that if we have the right protection, and the right resources, we can manage, and, we will do okay.”