Extratropical Cyclone, Louisiana: Coffin, Vault Still Moving

Lafitte, Louisiana – Hurricane Aida struck Louisiana with a fierce wind tearing the roof from the building and a storm surge that was powerful enough to move the house. What it brought to their livelihoods also brought to the dead, moving vaults and caskets, and adding another layer of trauma to families and communities recovering from a powerful storm.

“We hope that burying relatives will be a permanent resting place,” said Rev. Haywood Johnson, Jr., who lives in a small community in Ironton, south of New Orleans, along the Mississippi River. He lived in the community and pushed a heavy vault, including Johnson’s mother and other relatives, out of the rest area into the street.


“Some of those tombs weigh a few tons, and water just came and destroyed it like a cardboard box. That was the power of water,” he said.

Locations in Louisiana, in hurricane-prone areas, are common problems with strong hurricanes and other flood aftermath, coupled with cultural burial practices that often rest the dead on the ground.

Ryan Saidemann chairs the State Cemetery Task Force, which was formed after the 2016 flood in Baton Rouge and widespread problems in graveyards throughout the flooded area. Task Force members will begin investigating the graveyard as soon as possible after the storm and assess the damage.

In some cases, floods caused by storm surges and heavy rains can travel so far that it is not immediately clear where the safe is buried. Often made of thousands of pounds of concrete or burnt blocks, the vault has air pockets inside, and the concrete itself may actually be more buoyant than people are aware of. Seidemann said.


“They are floating. They tend to go wherever the water goes. They recovered them from the garden, from the embankment, from under the stairwell,” he said. From there. “

And recovery is just the first step. The team then needs to identify the remains and often works with family members to help with Federal Emergency Management Agency repayment costs. Despite efforts to recover after Aida, the Task Force said last year it was dealing with the damage caused by a hurricane that sent debris to coastal wetlands, Saideman said.

Staying evacuated in the aftermath of a hurricane is like “opening an old wound” for the family, Seidemann said: “They will have to go through the whole process of sorrow again.” ..

It’s also annoying to those who are struggling to rebuild their homes or businesses when they come across vaults or caskets in their gardens or roads, but Seidemann says that people are generally patient and return their remains to provide closure to their families. I just wanted to.


Thomas Harco lives along the Bayou Barataria, which intersects Goose Bayou in southeastern Louisiana. In the middle of his property is a small family cemetery, often referred to as the Lafitte Cemetery or the Perrin Family Cemetery.

After the hurricane, Haruko found a thick layer of mud washed away over the land, one of his homes pushed away a four-foot-high pillar, and two heavy stone vaults in the graveyard moved. bottom. I began to rest on the embankment that separates my property from Bayeux. On the other side of the road was another vault that Haruko believed was in the graveyard.

“It took a lot of blow,” Haruko said of the graveyard, and he leaned into a vault on the road and said, “That’s just one example.”

Edward Perrin, like any other cemetery on a long land ridge extending towards the Gulf of Mexico, buries his relatives there. He said at least one vault had to be removed and recovered after Rita. The 87-year-old thought he might have wanted to rest in a family graveyard in Goosebayu, but the grave turmoil reconsidered him.


“All this water situation is causing problems in worship, burial and life,” he said.

Families sometimes tie graves and use sandbags to keep them in place before a storm, said Irby Goings, a member of the retired funeral director Task Force. When they evacuate, it can be difficult to identify the bodies, especially for long-dead people, who have few, if any, ways to collate things like dental records and DNA.

Some caskets have a small plastic tube, called a memory tube, screwed into the end where the funeral hall can hold identification information. In some cases, they found their names at the feet of the casket, or put embroidery on the cloth covering the bottom of the person, he said.

In many cases, the family can provide important identification details. He recalled one case in which his grandson identified a woman’s remains with marbles in a casket in honor of his love for the game.


In some cases, all options are exhausted. After the 2016 flood, a small number of unidentified people have been buried in the Plainview Cemetery in Denham Springs. And sometimes, despite an extensive search, the casket goes missing and is never found.

Seidemann estimated that it could take up to two years to put all the bodies exiled by Ida back in place. This is the time since the flood in the Baton Rouge area in 2016.

The team is in Ironton and Lafitte, collecting vaults and caskets scattered in the water. Once they are identified, they will be re-burial. At Ironton, Rev. Johnson said he wanted to hold a ceremony at that time to honor the dead.


Follow Santana on Twitter @ ruskygal.

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Extratropical Cyclone, Louisiana: Coffin, Vault Still Moving

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