August 19, 1998 transcript #: 247-3
Subject(s): Audrey, 1957, Cameron
Hurricane Definitions

In 1957, Americans thought of themselves as ultramodern. TV was everywhere and Elvis had taken over radio. But small towns weren't always so quick to jump on the media bandwagon. For the town of Cameron, Louisiana, that meant a hurricane disaster that shouldn't have happened in a modern world. Hi, I’m Dave Thurlow and this is The Weather Notebook.

Cameron sits on the coast of southwest Louisiana, about 30 miles east of Texas. It’s surrounded by marshes and sand dunes, and is only a smidgen above sea level. In late June of 1957, a rare early-season tropical storm spun up in the Gulf. Hurricane Audrey quickly intensified and moved toward the Texas/Louisiana coast. People were urged to evacuate, and most of the newer residents of Cameron did leave. However, many of the old-timers, who had seen only weak tropical storms, thought the sand dunes would help protect the town. Warnings of the hurricane went out on both radio and television. But apparently the radio signal was distorted. As for the television warning, well, not all of the residents of Cameron had subscribed to the notion of that new-fangled technology.

Audrey arrived on June 27 with winds of up to 150 miles per hour and a storm surge of twelve feet that swept across the bayou, washing hundreds of homes away. With no place to hide, more than 600 people were killed—most of them older residents. Audrey was one of the last storms where modern technology came up against the attitudes and beliefs of a slower, simpler time, with tragic results.

Today’s contributing writer is Bob Henson. The Weather Notebook is underwritten by Subaru, the beauty of all wheel drive, with major support provided by the National Science Foundation.

ADDENDUM: September 18, 2006

In response to several listener queries, correspondent Bob Henson adds:

This two-minute segment did not do justice to the full story of Hurricane Audrey. Although hurricane warnings were issued at 10 PM on the night of June 26, 1957, the storm accelerated and intensified overnight, striking earlier and with much more fury than residents expected. To see copies of the actual Weather Bureau statements issued as Audrey approached, see this link:

The mention above of a "radio signal being distorted" was itself distorted when we produced this segment. In fact, it was the content of the warning message itself, as broadcast on radio, that helped lead many residents of southwest Louisiana to believe that they were safe from Audrey.

In short, a variety of factors led to the Audrey tragedy, and my segment was meant to touch on only a few aspects of this complex and sad story. I wish there had been room for more detail, and Iím sorry if the brevity and tone of this segment distorted the story. My thanks go to several descendants of Audrey survivors who provided comments and perspective.