This is an account of Mrs. Sue Lavergne’s experience with Hurricane Audrey in June of 1957. Mrs. Lavergne shared her story with me during a phone call in late May of 2023.
I had just turned 8 years old when Hurricane Audrey hit Cameron Parish in southwest Louisiana. I had been born and raised most of my life in Ville Platte, LA. and spoke only French until moving to Cameron Parish, learning English in 1st grade at the school, I think it was in Creole. I’m the oldest child of Gussie and Bernella Fontenot. And at the time of Audrey, had two sisters, Judy, age 4 and Wilda, age 6. And two brothers, Michael, age 2 and Ronald, 8 months.
My 13-year-old uncle, my mother’s brother, Terrel Deville, was visiting us as Audrey approached. I remember being told the evening of June 26th that we had time to wait until the morning to leave, but early the next morning, the storm arrived. Dad began packing and loading the car. As we walked to the car, the wind was so strong that I remember we had to stoop or crouch low, with our heads down so that the wind would not blow us back. Dad drove a ways but had to turn back due to deep water on the road. We got back to our house and Mom and Dad began throwing things into the attic for us to ride it out up there. Mom went in the attic first as water was coming in the front door. By the time all the kids were lifted into the attic, the water was chest deep on Dad. I remember a window on each side of the attic and my sister and I going from one to the other, looking at the rising water. I’m not sure how long we were up there, but I remember the house started to move. Dad ran to one of the windows, broke it and noticed that the house was near a large tree. Dad put Michael, my 2-year-old brother, in the tree, then me and my sister Wilda. As he began to go back to the house to get my other sister Judy, 8-month-old Ronald, who was in Mom’s arms and Uncle Terrel, he had to turn back to the tree because the house was too far away.
My Dad, brother Michael, sister Wilda and I rode the storm out, straddling the branches on that tree. I remember the thorns making it difficult to hold on to the tree and the rain stinging our faces. By late that afternoon the storm was weakening. Dad tried to reach the cab of his company truck in our yard. He got us there and we spent that night there. The next morning, I remember walking on the road toward our neighbor’s brick house. There were branches and trash everywhere. We reached our neighbor’s house at the end of the road. They welcomed all of us in and gave us dry clothes.
At some point, a small airplane took us somewhere around Lake Charles. My Dad’s boss picked us up and brought us to his house until our grandparents arrived and took us to theirs. During the next few days, my sister Judy was found. She had not made it. Her body was found under the eave of our roof, in the dress she had been wearing. My Mom, brother Ronald and my uncle Terrel were found alive and have their own stories of survival to tell.