Magazine article American Libraries

Hurricane Rita Wreaks Havoc on Louisiana, Texas

Magazine article American Libraries

Hurricane Rita Wreaks Havoc on Louisiana, Texas

Article excerpt

Hurricane Rita struck the Gulf Coast less than four weeks after and only 270 miles away from Katrina's Louisiana landfall in August. The fourth most intense storm ever recorded in the North Atlantic, Rita had weakened to a Category 3 hurricane by the time it made landfall near Sabine Pass, Texas, September 24. Coastal communities were hit hard by the storm surge, especially Cameron and Calcasieu parishes in Louisiana, and rains enhanced the damage to areas struck by Katrina (see p. 16-18).

After Lake Charles reopened October 7, Calcasieu Parish Public Library Director Jeffrey Rippel found that only one branch was severely damaged, although moisture and mold problems were present at five branches. "Our Maplewood facility in east Sulphur will be closed indefinitely," he reported to the State Library of Louisiana. "At that branch, the winds pulled off a good bit of the metal roof, exposing the plywood decking and allowing significant water intrusion." He estimated that 40% of the collection was lost at that branch. "Considering the devastation throughout the parish, it's amazing to me that we have come through with so little damage to our facilities."

In Cameron Parish, the situation was much worse. The main library in Cameron is completely gone, except for a bookmobile and electronic equipment that Director Charlotte Trosclair managed to evacuate before the storm. The branches in Grand Chenier, Hackberry, and Johnson Bayou were also destroyed, leaving the Grand Lake library the system's only survivor.

The Elton branch of the Jefferson Davis Parish Library suffered extensive structural damage. The library staff put the collection in storage until a new building is finished in January.

The Vermilion Parish Library in Abbeville reported the complete loss of its Cow Island and VaughCopel Memorial branches. Director Jackie Choate said the Erath branch had about a foot of water, with many books on the bottom shelves damaged.

The Terrebonne Parish Library in Houma reports that Rita destroyed its Grand Caillou branch in Dulac. The Chauvin branch was closed after taking in a foot and a half of water. Director Mary Cosper LeBoeuf told the state library that Branch Manager Tina Freeman was able to move books from the lower shelves before the storm hit, and she got the collection and computers out of the building before post-Rita dampness set in.

A summary of all Rita- and Katrina-related public library damage is available on the State Library of Louisiana website at www. …

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