Gustav was too close for comfort

For years, Tri-parish officials have argued that a direct hit from a hurricane could bring the area to its knees.

Year after year, Terrebonne, Lafourche and St. Mary parish leaders head to Washington, D.C., to plea our case. Louisiana’s coast is vulnerable. Our wetlands are quickly becoming a memory. Our culture, our homes and our people are at risk.

Last week, Hurricane Gustav looked like it was going to be the storm that would strike the nail in our coffin. Building to a Category 4 storm and predicted to keep growing as it neared Cuba’s shoreline, mandatory evacuations were ordered up and down south Louisiana.

In the hours leading up to Labor Day, we watched as the quick-moving hurricane scurried toward Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

In the early hours of Sept. 1, the storm came ashore over Cocodrie. Fortunately, Gustav never tired. His forward momentum helped keep his winds from reaching the feared Category 3 level. We were spared the enormous storm surge Tri-parish residents have long feared would one day wipe us out.

In the days after the storm, residents would return to find the area wind-battered but, for the most part, not water-soaked.

We’re learning to cope with the lack of electricity, water boil orders and early evening curfews. But with another storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, we know the fight for a hurricane protection system – of any storm level – is vital to our survival.

Gustav dealt the region a hearty blow. And it served as a reminder to the world how vulnerable our coast has become. With Katrina’s wrath fresh on everyone’s mind, Gustav slipped in New Orleans’ backdoor – and onto our front porch. The media may have been focused on the Big Easy, but we know too well who took the brunt of this unwanted visitor.

It’s one more reminder just how vital the fight for hurricane protection dollars in our region is to our economy and culture. Let’s finish what Gustav started.