TEMPESTS: Storms in the Archives

Rigaud's grandmother survived the storm of 1893, but lost her parents

Clovis Rigaud by Earl Robicheaux, 2009; 4700.2499

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Grand Isle, center, "General Reconnaissance of the Gulf Coast'" 1853. NOAA.

Earl Robicheaux: So what memories or stories did your grandparents or parents tell you about the storm of 1893?

Clovis Rigaud: Well, in 1893 my grandma survived. My grandma was eleven years old and there were nothing on this island. Everything was across the bridge. As a matter of fact, LSU was building a place. They were going to have students going there and all, but that was wiped out. There was no other industry but seafood then. And she told me that at three o'clock the day before the storm she'd look under and the tide was real low. People was picking up soft-shelled crabs on the flat. And she said there was something about that sun that they'd never seen before, it was red. Fire-ball red. And three o'clock the next morning, over sixteen-hundred people was drowned. You didn't have the weather report or this, no, no.

Robicheaux: Back to . . . You say your grandmother was a survivor of the storm?

Rigaud: Yeah.

Robicheaux: Did they tell you anything about water coming up on the island?

Rigaud: Oh, she said it was a mess. She always said, "Whenever we got a storm, leave if you can. Because once it's there, all you're doing is praying to God. And it's so dark you can't see your hand and the noise of the wind wants to bust your eardrums up," she said. After the storm they moved up the bayou for a while. But she lost her mom, her daddy, and one brother survived. Her and her brother survived and the rest all drowned. They find people sixteen days after, the ship picks them up in the riptide in the Gulf. It was bad.

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