By Cyndi Sellers
Hurricane Laura produced a record storm surge for Louisiana and the fifth highest in the United States, the National Weather Service has announced. Investigation of high water marks in Cameron Parish last week showed a surge of 17.1′ above ground at Rutherford Beach, which correlates to about 20.2 feet above sea level, according to meteorologist Andy Tingler. A house at the corner of Oak Grove Highway and Rutherford Lane had a high water mark of 20.8 feet NAVD88.
The previous record of surge in Louisiana was 18.7 feet by Katrina in 2005. Katrina had a U.S. record surge of 34.11′ in Mississippi, followed by Camille in Mississippi at 24.6′, Carla in Texas at 22′, and Opal in Florida at 21.5′. Michael in 2018 registered a surge of 20.6′. Rita bumps down to 14th overall, with 17.8′.
Meteorologists were widely criticized immediately after Laura when the surge did not appear to be as bad as predicted in areas like Lake Charles. This data supports earlier predictions of 18-20 feet of surge and was within the predicted cone. The highest surge is usually located to the east of the eye of a Gulf hurricane, and such was the case here. The devastation seen in Oak Grove and Grand Chenier could have been Cameron, Grand Lake and Lake Charles if the storm had moved in only 10 miles further west.