In the Path of the Storms: Bayou la Batre, Coden, and the Alabama Coast

In the Path of the Storms: Bayou la Batre, Coden, and the Alabama Coast

In the Path of the Storms: Bayou la Batre, Coden, and the Alabama Coast

In the Path of the Storms: Bayou la Batre, Coden, and the Alabama Coast

Excerpt

About once a century in Bayou La Batre, catastrophic storms come roaring in from the Gulf. Ninety-nine years before Katrina, there was the hurricane of 1906, a mighty wind that lasted for more than twenty-four hours, long before these events had names. The memories of that storm linger even now in the oral history of the Bayou—in the family stories handed down for generations in this fishing village on the Alabama coast.

Alma Bryant, a girl of thirteen in 1906, and later her community's leading educator, remembered being separated from her family as the tidal surge tore her house from its moorings. “Rain, the coldest and heaviest I have ever felt, pounded me relentlessly,” she said. “Then the vicious wind picked me up and immersed me in one of those craters made by an uprooted tree. I clutched the limb … and held on for dear life, barely conscious of the weird noises all around me—the shrieks of frightened birds, the woeful cry of a drowning calf, the dying moans of Mr. Deakle's old white mare pinned beneath the demolished barn.”

Miss Bryant, in the end, was one of the lucky ones. She managed to swim and clamber through the floating debris—“the limp, dead chickens, bloated hogs, writhing snakes”—toward the flickering light of a house in the distance. Many others didn't make it, and the Mobile Register, the morning newspaper in the nearest city, carefully recorded the details: two Bayou women lining up the bodies, covering . . .

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