Jun 15, 2020

Grand Isle Faces Broken Defenses After Tropical Storm Cristobal

Tropical Storm Cristobal damaged nearly 2,000 feet of the levee on the island’s west side


tropical storm surge

David Camardelle, Grand Isle’s longtime mayor, believes this summer’s predicted storms and hurricanes may seriously impact the island.

Tropical Storm Cristobal caused outsized problems on Grand Isle and in St. Bernard Parish, where storm surges overtopped rural levees and flooded highways.

“This is a crisis situation,” said Camardelle. “I’m worried to death this island will be cut in half.”

According to the New Orleans Advocate, Tropical Storm Cristobal damaged nearly 2,000 feet of the levee on the island’s west side. The waves cut through about 85 feet of sand to reach the levee’s core.

Grand Isle is part of a chain of barrier islands that serve as Louisiana's defense against storm surges. The island has about 1,400 permanent residents, but its population can triple during weekends and summers, according to the New Orleans Advocate.

According to St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis, the fact that Tropical Storm Cristobal can now overwhelm the parish's levee system proves how much the protective buffer of wetland has degraded. St. Bernard could lose 72% of the parish's current land area over the next 50 years, according to the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

The island’s most immediate need, to repair a levee, is not getting emergency attention, according to Camardelle. The Army Corps built the levee in 2014 but it is now partially maintained by the CPRA. Both agencies issued statements saying they’re still assessing the damage and are not ready to commit to a solution.

Read related content about tropical storms: