Farmers say Hurricane Ike damage comparable to 2005's Rita in south Louisiana
Coastal residents assessing their damage from Hurricane Ike compared this storm with Hurricane Rita in 2005.
In Vermilion Parish, residents said the water rose much slower and was not as high.
That wasn't the case in Cameron Parish, where LSU AgCenter county agent Gary Wicke said the water was higher in some places, especially in Johnson's Bayou, and the surge even reached the Lake Charles airport.
Flooding at the temporary LSU AgCenter Extension Office for Cameron Parish, located in the Grand Lake community, was inaccessible Monday, Sept. 15, but Wicke expected the water to recede enough to allow his staff to return by Wednesday, Sept. 17.
Dr. Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, and research associate Kim Landry measured salt levels Sept. 15 in standing water in Cameron and lower Jefferson Davis parishes, finding high levels of saltwater. "A lot of it went off the scale," Saichuk said.
It's difficult to say now if Ike brought more saltwater inland than Rita, he said, but the effect may be diminished this time.
"When Rita came in, there was a drought so the land and the ditches soaked up the water," he said. "But in this case, we had a lot of rain before the storm."
Saichuk said he saw several rice fields where the second crop would be lost from saltwater.
Stuart Gauthier, LSU AgCenter county agent in Vermilion Parish, and Howard Cormier, retired LSU AgCenter county agent, surveyed the east end of Vermilion Parish and found salt levels as high as 13,500 parts per million at the Frances and David LaCour farm south of Mouton Cove and 2,000 ppm east of Abbeville. Cormier said the average level was approximately 9,000 ppm.
Many areas of the town of Erath were flooded, and salinity levels exceeded 9,000 ppm.
Cormier said the storm surge from Ike didn't appear to have the destructive force that Rita brought to Vermilion Parish, and Gauthier said the fact that most fences are still standing after Ike supports that idea.
Cattle and sugarcane farmer Sam Duplantis said he has been struggling to get hay to his cattle. "All the pastures are full of salt," he said.
Duplantis' home flooded with Rita, but not this time, so he brought dehumidifiers to help dry out the residence of farmer Jimmy Domingue.
Domingue said he had only a few inches of water in his home, compared to 3 feet with Rita.
But Domingue said hurricanes Gustav and Ike will hurt his sugarcane crop. "The last storm (Gustav) leaned it this way, and this one (Ike) turned it over," he said.
Domingue said many of the cane plants suffered broken tops, and that can affect sugar yields by as much as 30 percent to 40 percent.
Norma and Tommy Romero were cleaning out their flooded home Sept. 15 with help from a crew of friends and neighbors at the boat landing on Boston Canal. The flood water didn't get as high as Rita, but that's little consolation with a mess of muddy goo that covered everything.