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Ron Thibodeaux

Hell or High Water: How Cajun Fortitude Withstood Hurricanes Rita and Ike


    Americans will long remember 2005 as the year of the hurricane when so many storms formed in the North Atlantic that we ran out of names and had to use letters of the Greek alphabet to identify them. In the midst of that turmoil, one of the decade's most imposing hurricanes set itself apart from all others. It was, for a time, the largest hurricane ever measured within the Gulf of Mexico, and one of the strongest Category 5 hurricanes ever recorded. When it struck South Louisiana, its enormous storm surge and intense winds threatened more than just tens of thousands of local residents"€"it took dead aim on a culture and a way of life unique to all of the United States as well. But this is not the story that most Americans think they know. This was not Hurricane Katrina, which held the country in rapt attention as the human misery throughout flooded New Orleans was compounded by inept government response at every level. No, this was Hurricane Rita, the other Louisiana disaster of 2005. Rita clobbered communities across the entire 250-mile coastal foundation of Acadiana, America's one-of-a-kind Cajun country. From one end of the Louisiana coast to another, towns were flooded, populations were left homeless and without public services, and communities were all but wiped off the map.

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