Bayou Farewell

Publisher's Weekly calls Mike Tidwell's 2003 Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast a "lyrically intense travelogue". But it also sounds a clear warning: "...hundreds of Louisiana towns and cities, all just a few feet above sea level, lie increasingly prone to that deadly wrecking ball of hurricane force known as the storm surge. Coastal wetlands, it turns out, provide more than just a critical nursery for shrimp, crabs and fish. Every 2.7 miles of marsh grass absorbs a foot of a hurricane’s storm surge, that huge tide of water pushed inland by the storm’s winds. For New Orleans alone, hemmed in by levees and already on average eight feet below sea level, the apron of wetlands between it and the closest Gulf shore was, cumulatively, about 50 miles a century ago. Today that distance is perhaps 20 miles and shrinking fast. With very slow evacuation speed virtually guaranteed (there are only three major exit bridges that jump over the encircling levees for central New Orleans’ 600,000 people), it’s not implausible that a major hurricane approaching from the right direction could cause tens of thousands of deaths.”