By John Estep
Fresh out of Radarman school in Groton, Conn., I was transferred
back to the 8th Coast Guard District in Sept.1956. After a couple weeks at COTP New
Orleans, I was further transferred to Grand Isle, LA. aboard an 83-footer.
Life in Grand Isle was something less than I expected, mainly because of the environment. Never had I seen such persistent mosquitos in my life. They would chase you at top speed until you were either under water or inside the refrigerator. They were so big that one would uncover you while the others would devour you and leave only blood spots on your rack.
So it came as a real pleasure to go back to New Orleans on a 72 hr. pass after my first three weeks under these conditions. But my pleasure was short lived when half way through my 72 hrs, we got word of an approaching storm, later to be named "FLOSSIE". So, my shipmates and I made it back to Grand Isle to start buttoning everything down. An 83-footer is no match for a hurricane, though in later years I was in some pretty rough waters in the Carribean, so we were to stay tied up to the dock and ride it out.
FLOSSIE began blowing her ugly breath on us about dark Sunday evening and never let up until nearly daylight Monday morning. At her height, she blew at about 115 MPH. The storm surge sent in a tide of about 10 to 15 Ft., so Grand Isle was totally under water. We made it through with some minor damage to the boat, but I can't say the same about the island.
The seawall washed away in several places and left the whole island awash with sea waves. Humble Oil Co. had just finished filling low ground with dredging from off shore to make high ground for their demarcation point for the off-shore oil rigs, with heli-pads and quanset hut warehouses. All that was gone the next morning including the new fill for the low-ground.
There was a house moved across the street, turned around, an set down in another front yard almost as if it were built there, while down the street another was gone completely. The strangest sight of all was of a house with one whole corner blown off, but the bedroom suite was left intact including the pictures on the dresser.
We had boats in the street and cars in the channel. No electric service, no clean water other than what everyone saved in jugs. We spent the rest of the week, along with the compliment of the CGLBS Grand Isle, cleaning up and helping the locals take care of their needs. Needless to say, we made friends for life that week in Grand Isle, La., but the most rewarding part of this adventure was that the storm blew away the mosquitos for a while.
Jack, I hope you like this story. It's true, but not one I would care to
relive. I didn't mention that, along with everyone else, I was terrified, not
knowing if the old boat was going to make it or not. A lot of the shrimp
boats in the area didn't. It was a sad looking area after FLOSSIE got
through. I can imagine what Grand Isle looks like today after LILLY got
through with her.
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