MARDI GRAS - NEW ORLEANS, LOUSIANA

Mardi Gras, that maddest of all mad days when every man may be a king, or, if he prefers, a tramp or a clown or an Indian chief, and dance in the streets. 

New Orleans City Guide (WPA, 1938)

If you didn’t come to party, take your bitch ass home,” shouts the man selling t-shirts on Bourbon Street. He adds, “I have size sexy for the ladies.”

The main street for Carnival Season partying in New Orleans has a distinct aroma—a mix of sweat, crawfish, Daiquiri puke and just-starting-to-rot garbage. All around the senses are assaulted with beads thrown from above, shoes getting stuck to the sticky wash that covers the street, drummers drumming, people shouting and bursts of purple, gold and green. Mardi Gras has been taking place in New Orleans since before 1835. It is a time for the loud, the grotesque, the strange and excess. While this might sound awful, it is intoxicating. The season has lasted all these years because it is what you make it.

Everyone has a different experience because no one is in charge and the celebration spreads throughout the city. If you came to party, you will find one on Bourbon. I saw lots of tits, a couple asses, hundreds of hollow plastic legs dangling around people’s necks filled with red liquor, people tumbling after one too many and too many crazy outfits to count.

The balcony people taunt the crowds below. Some put fancy trinkets on fishing wire to yank the items out of greedy, eager hands. They lay in wait to judge who is deserving of the beads. Sometimes it requires a dance or a flash and sometimes they take pity on a cute nine-year-old who is getting quite an eyeful.

Just one street over, there is the opportunity for family friendly fare. Royal Street, which turns into St. Charles when heading Uptown, is filled with jugglers and street musicians, and is also the main parade route for the bigger parades. Smartly, the first couple rows of people have chairs and right behind, people set up ladders with elaborate boxes for children to sit in for a better view. There is definitely alcohol, but people try to keep it together a little more here.

Quintron and Miss Pussycat are playing at the Spellcaster Lodge with Jello Biafra in attendance and Big Freedia is bouncing at VASO. There are fancy balls with high society that are by invitation only and parades that are solely for the people who know where they start and stop.

It can also be a time for the political. Different Krewes head different parades, all with unique themes for the year. The Krewe d’Etat is known for its biting satire and this year was no different with floats criticizing the sex trade and prison system. The Zulu Parade, that goes through the neighborhood torn apart by the freeway, celebrated the life of Nelson Mandela this year.

For me, Mardi Gras was cruising the city by bicycle and taking in the sites and sounds. The majority of the time it was a delight. Walking and making photographs, I was moved to tears during the Talladega College Marching Band’s version of Get Lucky and was surprised to find how amazing it is to make eye contact with someone on a giant float and catching the beads thrown right at me. And I already miss the smell.

Mark Twain said: “I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi-Gras in New Orleans.” 

* * *

Tammy Mercure is a State Guide to Tennessee. She was named one of the “100 under 100: The New Superstars of Southern Art” by Oxford American magazine.

Follow on Tumblr at tammymercure or on her website, TammyMercure.com. Support her work at TCB Press.

Ironton Interviews

395 Plays

PROPOSED RAM COAL TERMINAL - IRONTON, LOUISIANA (cont’d)

Coal power plants may make the most financial sense to build, but perhaps the least environmental sense. Emissions from coal plants are one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. On a global scale, the World Bank and the Obama administration are making moves to shift foreign energy development away from coal-fired plants, but the domestic coal industry maintains powerful champions in the U.S. Congress. The huge piles of coal sprawling along the Mississippi River near Ironton bear testament to that fervent support. 

But even with Congressional proponents, the long-term survival of coal as a profitable export seems dim to community activists in Ironton. They see the RAM terminal as a last-gasp effort to squeeze what remaining profit margins exist in an industry where production is so linked to ecological destruction that eventually the limit will be reached. Ironton residents feel stuck in the middle—presented with vague promises of new jobs that will somehow offset the continued environmental degradation of their soil, water and air; long term sustainability traded for short term economic gains. 

The geographic distribution of industry has changed within the United States. Sixty years ago, the port of New Orleans would have been the logical place to locate an export terminal of any kind. But scarce industrial land in the city, not to mention the much stronger political will of the population to oppose an environmentally questionable development, makes constructing a project like a coal terminal difficult in areas with larger populations. Over the past 50 years, manufacturing and industry have preferred to build such things in rural areas. Industrializing rural communities is attractive to companies for several reasons—the land is cheaper, the labor is cheaper, and the political landscape easier to navigate. Such small communities also tend to have less access to media, or to organizations dedicated to environmental or governmental watchdogging, many of which are based in cities.

Ironton, however, is fighting back. A coalition of local leaders, organizers and media makers from around the region are raising their voices against the RAM project. Audrey Trufant Salvant is among them. To hear both Audrey and another Ironton resident, Cornell Battle, speak about Ironton and their struggle against the RAM coal terminal, please listen to the interview montage above.

Find Part 1 of this feature, including images of Ironton, here.

* * *

Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.

PROPOSED RAM COAL TERMINAL - IRONTON, LOUISIANA
Audrey Trufant Salvant’s father is buried less than 50 feet from her front door, in a little mausoleum that sits like an ornament in her yard. As we walk towards it, we pass no fence, road, or anything else to signify that we’ve left her property and entered a communal gravesite. She stops a few feet before the tomb and begins to speak above the wind of a coming storm that passes through the scattered single-wides of the town. Her family, she explains, has been living in Ironton for five generations. “This is home for me,” she says. “My dad’s buried here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
Ironton is a tiny working class black community, just three large blocks spread out along the natural levee of the Mississippi River in the coastal parish of Plaquemines. There are perhaps 60 standing structures in the whole town, many of them mobile homes placed among the devastated ruins of Hurricane Isaac. Standing at the grave, Audrey boasts about the pastoral appeal of the town. We glance around and see small homes, thick woods just upriver, and open fields that run along the distant highway. A slim boy in sportsman’s camo hikes his way over the nearby levee to hunt the batture woods along the Mississippi River. A neighbor nods to us as he washes his car. For all the industry that’s encroaching on this hidden place, you’d never know it just by looking. 
The Phillips 66 Alliance oil refinery is located less than two miles upriver; and the Myrtle Grove Midstream Terminal—a mid-river grain elevator—less than two miles towards the coast. A coal export terminal, characterized by massive piles of exposed coal, is three miles downriver. United Bulk, another enormous open air terminal, is right across the river from that. On rainy days, pet coke and coal runs visibly from these terminal sites and into nearby ditches and waterways. Scott Eustis, an environmental wetlands specialist who oversees coastal use permits for the Gulf Restoration Network, captured this image, showing coal runoff making its way into the Mississippi River. On dry days, the wind catches sheets of pulverized mineral dust from the massive piles that sit bare along the river and spreads them for miles around. A film of grain, coal, and particulate from other surrounding industries is evident everywhere in Ironton: on cars, on porches, and inside homes. This dust, many environmentalists and residents worry, contributes to asthma rates in the community.
After returning to Audrey’s house, we settle around her dining room table as she laments the coal-dust piles, smoke stacks, and grain elevators that surround her community on all sides. “We feel that it’s environmental racism,” she says after a pause. “You don’t see this kind of thing anywhere else in the parish other than black communities. I mean,” she stands up to run her finger along the chandelier that hangs above the table, and holds out her hand to reveal a thick cake of dark grey dust on her fingertip, “I justed dusted this thing last week.”
And the situation, she fears, may soon get worse. In 2011, RAM Terminals LLC bought 602 acres of land just north of Ironton with the goal of building yet another coal exporting facility, significantly increasing the amount of coal surrounding the community. Air monitoring by community members indicates that the air particulate pollution levels in and around Ironton are already higher than what is deemed safe by international standards. There is tangible anxiety that the construction of yet another open-air coal terminal will only continue this trend.
RAM also plans the extension of a local railroad line to make transportation faster and easier. This would mean open coal cars traveling throughout Plaquemines Parish, potentially contributing to the dust and overall air pollution. The company and the local government have not yet decided where the new rail line will go, but during a community meeting convened to discuss the plan, two of the three options presented to the community would have the train routed directly through the heart of Ironton, yards away from residences.
As this drama plays out in the small Louisiana parish of Plaquemines, domestic and international demand priorities within the coal industry are shifting. The U.S. is slowly phasing out coal-fired power plants, while coal consumption in other regions of the globe is on the rise. Coal is one of the cheapest energy sources available, and many developing nations argue that it is the fastest way to modernize their infrastructure and bring power to their population. Rapid industrialization in Asia, especially in China and India, means that the long-term survival of the U.S. coal industry is increasingly linked to consumers thousands of miles away.
Read more and hear from Ironton residents in Part 2.
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
PROPOSED RAM COAL TERMINAL - IRONTON, LOUISIANA
Audrey Trufant Salvant’s father is buried less than 50 feet from her front door, in a little mausoleum that sits like an ornament in her yard. As we walk towards it, we pass no fence, road, or anything else to signify that we’ve left her property and entered a communal gravesite. She stops a few feet before the tomb and begins to speak above the wind of a coming storm that passes through the scattered single-wides of the town. Her family, she explains, has been living in Ironton for five generations. “This is home for me,” she says. “My dad’s buried here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
Ironton is a tiny working class black community, just three large blocks spread out along the natural levee of the Mississippi River in the coastal parish of Plaquemines. There are perhaps 60 standing structures in the whole town, many of them mobile homes placed among the devastated ruins of Hurricane Isaac. Standing at the grave, Audrey boasts about the pastoral appeal of the town. We glance around and see small homes, thick woods just upriver, and open fields that run along the distant highway. A slim boy in sportsman’s camo hikes his way over the nearby levee to hunt the batture woods along the Mississippi River. A neighbor nods to us as he washes his car. For all the industry that’s encroaching on this hidden place, you’d never know it just by looking. 
The Phillips 66 Alliance oil refinery is located less than two miles upriver; and the Myrtle Grove Midstream Terminal—a mid-river grain elevator—less than two miles towards the coast. A coal export terminal, characterized by massive piles of exposed coal, is three miles downriver. United Bulk, another enormous open air terminal, is right across the river from that. On rainy days, pet coke and coal runs visibly from these terminal sites and into nearby ditches and waterways. Scott Eustis, an environmental wetlands specialist who oversees coastal use permits for the Gulf Restoration Network, captured this image, showing coal runoff making its way into the Mississippi River. On dry days, the wind catches sheets of pulverized mineral dust from the massive piles that sit bare along the river and spreads them for miles around. A film of grain, coal, and particulate from other surrounding industries is evident everywhere in Ironton: on cars, on porches, and inside homes. This dust, many environmentalists and residents worry, contributes to asthma rates in the community.
After returning to Audrey’s house, we settle around her dining room table as she laments the coal-dust piles, smoke stacks, and grain elevators that surround her community on all sides. “We feel that it’s environmental racism,” she says after a pause. “You don’t see this kind of thing anywhere else in the parish other than black communities. I mean,” she stands up to run her finger along the chandelier that hangs above the table, and holds out her hand to reveal a thick cake of dark grey dust on her fingertip, “I justed dusted this thing last week.”
And the situation, she fears, may soon get worse. In 2011, RAM Terminals LLC bought 602 acres of land just north of Ironton with the goal of building yet another coal exporting facility, significantly increasing the amount of coal surrounding the community. Air monitoring by community members indicates that the air particulate pollution levels in and around Ironton are already higher than what is deemed safe by international standards. There is tangible anxiety that the construction of yet another open-air coal terminal will only continue this trend.
RAM also plans the extension of a local railroad line to make transportation faster and easier. This would mean open coal cars traveling throughout Plaquemines Parish, potentially contributing to the dust and overall air pollution. The company and the local government have not yet decided where the new rail line will go, but during a community meeting convened to discuss the plan, two of the three options presented to the community would have the train routed directly through the heart of Ironton, yards away from residences.
As this drama plays out in the small Louisiana parish of Plaquemines, domestic and international demand priorities within the coal industry are shifting. The U.S. is slowly phasing out coal-fired power plants, while coal consumption in other regions of the globe is on the rise. Coal is one of the cheapest energy sources available, and many developing nations argue that it is the fastest way to modernize their infrastructure and bring power to their population. Rapid industrialization in Asia, especially in China and India, means that the long-term survival of the U.S. coal industry is increasingly linked to consumers thousands of miles away.
Read more and hear from Ironton residents in Part 2.
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
PROPOSED RAM COAL TERMINAL - IRONTON, LOUISIANA
Audrey Trufant Salvant’s father is buried less than 50 feet from her front door, in a little mausoleum that sits like an ornament in her yard. As we walk towards it, we pass no fence, road, or anything else to signify that we’ve left her property and entered a communal gravesite. She stops a few feet before the tomb and begins to speak above the wind of a coming storm that passes through the scattered single-wides of the town. Her family, she explains, has been living in Ironton for five generations. “This is home for me,” she says. “My dad’s buried here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
Ironton is a tiny working class black community, just three large blocks spread out along the natural levee of the Mississippi River in the coastal parish of Plaquemines. There are perhaps 60 standing structures in the whole town, many of them mobile homes placed among the devastated ruins of Hurricane Isaac. Standing at the grave, Audrey boasts about the pastoral appeal of the town. We glance around and see small homes, thick woods just upriver, and open fields that run along the distant highway. A slim boy in sportsman’s camo hikes his way over the nearby levee to hunt the batture woods along the Mississippi River. A neighbor nods to us as he washes his car. For all the industry that’s encroaching on this hidden place, you’d never know it just by looking. 
The Phillips 66 Alliance oil refinery is located less than two miles upriver; and the Myrtle Grove Midstream Terminal—a mid-river grain elevator—less than two miles towards the coast. A coal export terminal, characterized by massive piles of exposed coal, is three miles downriver. United Bulk, another enormous open air terminal, is right across the river from that. On rainy days, pet coke and coal runs visibly from these terminal sites and into nearby ditches and waterways. Scott Eustis, an environmental wetlands specialist who oversees coastal use permits for the Gulf Restoration Network, captured this image, showing coal runoff making its way into the Mississippi River. On dry days, the wind catches sheets of pulverized mineral dust from the massive piles that sit bare along the river and spreads them for miles around. A film of grain, coal, and particulate from other surrounding industries is evident everywhere in Ironton: on cars, on porches, and inside homes. This dust, many environmentalists and residents worry, contributes to asthma rates in the community.
After returning to Audrey’s house, we settle around her dining room table as she laments the coal-dust piles, smoke stacks, and grain elevators that surround her community on all sides. “We feel that it’s environmental racism,” she says after a pause. “You don’t see this kind of thing anywhere else in the parish other than black communities. I mean,” she stands up to run her finger along the chandelier that hangs above the table, and holds out her hand to reveal a thick cake of dark grey dust on her fingertip, “I justed dusted this thing last week.”
And the situation, she fears, may soon get worse. In 2011, RAM Terminals LLC bought 602 acres of land just north of Ironton with the goal of building yet another coal exporting facility, significantly increasing the amount of coal surrounding the community. Air monitoring by community members indicates that the air particulate pollution levels in and around Ironton are already higher than what is deemed safe by international standards. There is tangible anxiety that the construction of yet another open-air coal terminal will only continue this trend.
RAM also plans the extension of a local railroad line to make transportation faster and easier. This would mean open coal cars traveling throughout Plaquemines Parish, potentially contributing to the dust and overall air pollution. The company and the local government have not yet decided where the new rail line will go, but during a community meeting convened to discuss the plan, two of the three options presented to the community would have the train routed directly through the heart of Ironton, yards away from residences.
As this drama plays out in the small Louisiana parish of Plaquemines, domestic and international demand priorities within the coal industry are shifting. The U.S. is slowly phasing out coal-fired power plants, while coal consumption in other regions of the globe is on the rise. Coal is one of the cheapest energy sources available, and many developing nations argue that it is the fastest way to modernize their infrastructure and bring power to their population. Rapid industrialization in Asia, especially in China and India, means that the long-term survival of the U.S. coal industry is increasingly linked to consumers thousands of miles away.
Read more and hear from Ironton residents in Part 2.
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
PROPOSED RAM COAL TERMINAL - IRONTON, LOUISIANA
Audrey Trufant Salvant’s father is buried less than 50 feet from her front door, in a little mausoleum that sits like an ornament in her yard. As we walk towards it, we pass no fence, road, or anything else to signify that we’ve left her property and entered a communal gravesite. She stops a few feet before the tomb and begins to speak above the wind of a coming storm that passes through the scattered single-wides of the town. Her family, she explains, has been living in Ironton for five generations. “This is home for me,” she says. “My dad’s buried here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
Ironton is a tiny working class black community, just three large blocks spread out along the natural levee of the Mississippi River in the coastal parish of Plaquemines. There are perhaps 60 standing structures in the whole town, many of them mobile homes placed among the devastated ruins of Hurricane Isaac. Standing at the grave, Audrey boasts about the pastoral appeal of the town. We glance around and see small homes, thick woods just upriver, and open fields that run along the distant highway. A slim boy in sportsman’s camo hikes his way over the nearby levee to hunt the batture woods along the Mississippi River. A neighbor nods to us as he washes his car. For all the industry that’s encroaching on this hidden place, you’d never know it just by looking. 
The Phillips 66 Alliance oil refinery is located less than two miles upriver; and the Myrtle Grove Midstream Terminal—a mid-river grain elevator—less than two miles towards the coast. A coal export terminal, characterized by massive piles of exposed coal, is three miles downriver. United Bulk, another enormous open air terminal, is right across the river from that. On rainy days, pet coke and coal runs visibly from these terminal sites and into nearby ditches and waterways. Scott Eustis, an environmental wetlands specialist who oversees coastal use permits for the Gulf Restoration Network, captured this image, showing coal runoff making its way into the Mississippi River. On dry days, the wind catches sheets of pulverized mineral dust from the massive piles that sit bare along the river and spreads them for miles around. A film of grain, coal, and particulate from other surrounding industries is evident everywhere in Ironton: on cars, on porches, and inside homes. This dust, many environmentalists and residents worry, contributes to asthma rates in the community.
After returning to Audrey’s house, we settle around her dining room table as she laments the coal-dust piles, smoke stacks, and grain elevators that surround her community on all sides. “We feel that it’s environmental racism,” she says after a pause. “You don’t see this kind of thing anywhere else in the parish other than black communities. I mean,” she stands up to run her finger along the chandelier that hangs above the table, and holds out her hand to reveal a thick cake of dark grey dust on her fingertip, “I justed dusted this thing last week.”
And the situation, she fears, may soon get worse. In 2011, RAM Terminals LLC bought 602 acres of land just north of Ironton with the goal of building yet another coal exporting facility, significantly increasing the amount of coal surrounding the community. Air monitoring by community members indicates that the air particulate pollution levels in and around Ironton are already higher than what is deemed safe by international standards. There is tangible anxiety that the construction of yet another open-air coal terminal will only continue this trend.
RAM also plans the extension of a local railroad line to make transportation faster and easier. This would mean open coal cars traveling throughout Plaquemines Parish, potentially contributing to the dust and overall air pollution. The company and the local government have not yet decided where the new rail line will go, but during a community meeting convened to discuss the plan, two of the three options presented to the community would have the train routed directly through the heart of Ironton, yards away from residences.
As this drama plays out in the small Louisiana parish of Plaquemines, domestic and international demand priorities within the coal industry are shifting. The U.S. is slowly phasing out coal-fired power plants, while coal consumption in other regions of the globe is on the rise. Coal is one of the cheapest energy sources available, and many developing nations argue that it is the fastest way to modernize their infrastructure and bring power to their population. Rapid industrialization in Asia, especially in China and India, means that the long-term survival of the U.S. coal industry is increasingly linked to consumers thousands of miles away.
Read more and hear from Ironton residents in Part 2.
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
PROPOSED RAM COAL TERMINAL - IRONTON, LOUISIANA
Audrey Trufant Salvant’s father is buried less than 50 feet from her front door, in a little mausoleum that sits like an ornament in her yard. As we walk towards it, we pass no fence, road, or anything else to signify that we’ve left her property and entered a communal gravesite. She stops a few feet before the tomb and begins to speak above the wind of a coming storm that passes through the scattered single-wides of the town. Her family, she explains, has been living in Ironton for five generations. “This is home for me,” she says. “My dad’s buried here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
Ironton is a tiny working class black community, just three large blocks spread out along the natural levee of the Mississippi River in the coastal parish of Plaquemines. There are perhaps 60 standing structures in the whole town, many of them mobile homes placed among the devastated ruins of Hurricane Isaac. Standing at the grave, Audrey boasts about the pastoral appeal of the town. We glance around and see small homes, thick woods just upriver, and open fields that run along the distant highway. A slim boy in sportsman’s camo hikes his way over the nearby levee to hunt the batture woods along the Mississippi River. A neighbor nods to us as he washes his car. For all the industry that’s encroaching on this hidden place, you’d never know it just by looking. 
The Phillips 66 Alliance oil refinery is located less than two miles upriver; and the Myrtle Grove Midstream Terminal—a mid-river grain elevator—less than two miles towards the coast. A coal export terminal, characterized by massive piles of exposed coal, is three miles downriver. United Bulk, another enormous open air terminal, is right across the river from that. On rainy days, pet coke and coal runs visibly from these terminal sites and into nearby ditches and waterways. Scott Eustis, an environmental wetlands specialist who oversees coastal use permits for the Gulf Restoration Network, captured this image, showing coal runoff making its way into the Mississippi River. On dry days, the wind catches sheets of pulverized mineral dust from the massive piles that sit bare along the river and spreads them for miles around. A film of grain, coal, and particulate from other surrounding industries is evident everywhere in Ironton: on cars, on porches, and inside homes. This dust, many environmentalists and residents worry, contributes to asthma rates in the community.
After returning to Audrey’s house, we settle around her dining room table as she laments the coal-dust piles, smoke stacks, and grain elevators that surround her community on all sides. “We feel that it’s environmental racism,” she says after a pause. “You don’t see this kind of thing anywhere else in the parish other than black communities. I mean,” she stands up to run her finger along the chandelier that hangs above the table, and holds out her hand to reveal a thick cake of dark grey dust on her fingertip, “I justed dusted this thing last week.”
And the situation, she fears, may soon get worse. In 2011, RAM Terminals LLC bought 602 acres of land just north of Ironton with the goal of building yet another coal exporting facility, significantly increasing the amount of coal surrounding the community. Air monitoring by community members indicates that the air particulate pollution levels in and around Ironton are already higher than what is deemed safe by international standards. There is tangible anxiety that the construction of yet another open-air coal terminal will only continue this trend.
RAM also plans the extension of a local railroad line to make transportation faster and easier. This would mean open coal cars traveling throughout Plaquemines Parish, potentially contributing to the dust and overall air pollution. The company and the local government have not yet decided where the new rail line will go, but during a community meeting convened to discuss the plan, two of the three options presented to the community would have the train routed directly through the heart of Ironton, yards away from residences.
As this drama plays out in the small Louisiana parish of Plaquemines, domestic and international demand priorities within the coal industry are shifting. The U.S. is slowly phasing out coal-fired power plants, while coal consumption in other regions of the globe is on the rise. Coal is one of the cheapest energy sources available, and many developing nations argue that it is the fastest way to modernize their infrastructure and bring power to their population. Rapid industrialization in Asia, especially in China and India, means that the long-term survival of the U.S. coal industry is increasingly linked to consumers thousands of miles away.
Read more and hear from Ironton residents in Part 2.
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
PROPOSED RAM COAL TERMINAL - IRONTON, LOUISIANA
Audrey Trufant Salvant’s father is buried less than 50 feet from her front door, in a little mausoleum that sits like an ornament in her yard. As we walk towards it, we pass no fence, road, or anything else to signify that we’ve left her property and entered a communal gravesite. She stops a few feet before the tomb and begins to speak above the wind of a coming storm that passes through the scattered single-wides of the town. Her family, she explains, has been living in Ironton for five generations. “This is home for me,” she says. “My dad’s buried here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
Ironton is a tiny working class black community, just three large blocks spread out along the natural levee of the Mississippi River in the coastal parish of Plaquemines. There are perhaps 60 standing structures in the whole town, many of them mobile homes placed among the devastated ruins of Hurricane Isaac. Standing at the grave, Audrey boasts about the pastoral appeal of the town. We glance around and see small homes, thick woods just upriver, and open fields that run along the distant highway. A slim boy in sportsman’s camo hikes his way over the nearby levee to hunt the batture woods along the Mississippi River. A neighbor nods to us as he washes his car. For all the industry that’s encroaching on this hidden place, you’d never know it just by looking. 
The Phillips 66 Alliance oil refinery is located less than two miles upriver; and the Myrtle Grove Midstream Terminal—a mid-river grain elevator—less than two miles towards the coast. A coal export terminal, characterized by massive piles of exposed coal, is three miles downriver. United Bulk, another enormous open air terminal, is right across the river from that. On rainy days, pet coke and coal runs visibly from these terminal sites and into nearby ditches and waterways. Scott Eustis, an environmental wetlands specialist who oversees coastal use permits for the Gulf Restoration Network, captured this image, showing coal runoff making its way into the Mississippi River. On dry days, the wind catches sheets of pulverized mineral dust from the massive piles that sit bare along the river and spreads them for miles around. A film of grain, coal, and particulate from other surrounding industries is evident everywhere in Ironton: on cars, on porches, and inside homes. This dust, many environmentalists and residents worry, contributes to asthma rates in the community.
After returning to Audrey’s house, we settle around her dining room table as she laments the coal-dust piles, smoke stacks, and grain elevators that surround her community on all sides. “We feel that it’s environmental racism,” she says after a pause. “You don’t see this kind of thing anywhere else in the parish other than black communities. I mean,” she stands up to run her finger along the chandelier that hangs above the table, and holds out her hand to reveal a thick cake of dark grey dust on her fingertip, “I justed dusted this thing last week.”
And the situation, she fears, may soon get worse. In 2011, RAM Terminals LLC bought 602 acres of land just north of Ironton with the goal of building yet another coal exporting facility, significantly increasing the amount of coal surrounding the community. Air monitoring by community members indicates that the air particulate pollution levels in and around Ironton are already higher than what is deemed safe by international standards. There is tangible anxiety that the construction of yet another open-air coal terminal will only continue this trend.
RAM also plans the extension of a local railroad line to make transportation faster and easier. This would mean open coal cars traveling throughout Plaquemines Parish, potentially contributing to the dust and overall air pollution. The company and the local government have not yet decided where the new rail line will go, but during a community meeting convened to discuss the plan, two of the three options presented to the community would have the train routed directly through the heart of Ironton, yards away from residences.
As this drama plays out in the small Louisiana parish of Plaquemines, domestic and international demand priorities within the coal industry are shifting. The U.S. is slowly phasing out coal-fired power plants, while coal consumption in other regions of the globe is on the rise. Coal is one of the cheapest energy sources available, and many developing nations argue that it is the fastest way to modernize their infrastructure and bring power to their population. Rapid industrialization in Asia, especially in China and India, means that the long-term survival of the U.S. coal industry is increasingly linked to consumers thousands of miles away.
Read more and hear from Ironton residents in Part 2.
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
PROPOSED RAM COAL TERMINAL - IRONTON, LOUISIANA
Audrey Trufant Salvant’s father is buried less than 50 feet from her front door, in a little mausoleum that sits like an ornament in her yard. As we walk towards it, we pass no fence, road, or anything else to signify that we’ve left her property and entered a communal gravesite. She stops a few feet before the tomb and begins to speak above the wind of a coming storm that passes through the scattered single-wides of the town. Her family, she explains, has been living in Ironton for five generations. “This is home for me,” she says. “My dad’s buried here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
Ironton is a tiny working class black community, just three large blocks spread out along the natural levee of the Mississippi River in the coastal parish of Plaquemines. There are perhaps 60 standing structures in the whole town, many of them mobile homes placed among the devastated ruins of Hurricane Isaac. Standing at the grave, Audrey boasts about the pastoral appeal of the town. We glance around and see small homes, thick woods just upriver, and open fields that run along the distant highway. A slim boy in sportsman’s camo hikes his way over the nearby levee to hunt the batture woods along the Mississippi River. A neighbor nods to us as he washes his car. For all the industry that’s encroaching on this hidden place, you’d never know it just by looking. 
The Phillips 66 Alliance oil refinery is located less than two miles upriver; and the Myrtle Grove Midstream Terminal—a mid-river grain elevator—less than two miles towards the coast. A coal export terminal, characterized by massive piles of exposed coal, is three miles downriver. United Bulk, another enormous open air terminal, is right across the river from that. On rainy days, pet coke and coal runs visibly from these terminal sites and into nearby ditches and waterways. Scott Eustis, an environmental wetlands specialist who oversees coastal use permits for the Gulf Restoration Network, captured this image, showing coal runoff making its way into the Mississippi River. On dry days, the wind catches sheets of pulverized mineral dust from the massive piles that sit bare along the river and spreads them for miles around. A film of grain, coal, and particulate from other surrounding industries is evident everywhere in Ironton: on cars, on porches, and inside homes. This dust, many environmentalists and residents worry, contributes to asthma rates in the community.
After returning to Audrey’s house, we settle around her dining room table as she laments the coal-dust piles, smoke stacks, and grain elevators that surround her community on all sides. “We feel that it’s environmental racism,” she says after a pause. “You don’t see this kind of thing anywhere else in the parish other than black communities. I mean,” she stands up to run her finger along the chandelier that hangs above the table, and holds out her hand to reveal a thick cake of dark grey dust on her fingertip, “I justed dusted this thing last week.”
And the situation, she fears, may soon get worse. In 2011, RAM Terminals LLC bought 602 acres of land just north of Ironton with the goal of building yet another coal exporting facility, significantly increasing the amount of coal surrounding the community. Air monitoring by community members indicates that the air particulate pollution levels in and around Ironton are already higher than what is deemed safe by international standards. There is tangible anxiety that the construction of yet another open-air coal terminal will only continue this trend.
RAM also plans the extension of a local railroad line to make transportation faster and easier. This would mean open coal cars traveling throughout Plaquemines Parish, potentially contributing to the dust and overall air pollution. The company and the local government have not yet decided where the new rail line will go, but during a community meeting convened to discuss the plan, two of the three options presented to the community would have the train routed directly through the heart of Ironton, yards away from residences.
As this drama plays out in the small Louisiana parish of Plaquemines, domestic and international demand priorities within the coal industry are shifting. The U.S. is slowly phasing out coal-fired power plants, while coal consumption in other regions of the globe is on the rise. Coal is one of the cheapest energy sources available, and many developing nations argue that it is the fastest way to modernize their infrastructure and bring power to their population. Rapid industrialization in Asia, especially in China and India, means that the long-term survival of the U.S. coal industry is increasingly linked to consumers thousands of miles away.
Read more and hear from Ironton residents in Part 2.
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
PROPOSED RAM COAL TERMINAL - IRONTON, LOUISIANA
Audrey Trufant Salvant’s father is buried less than 50 feet from her front door, in a little mausoleum that sits like an ornament in her yard. As we walk towards it, we pass no fence, road, or anything else to signify that we’ve left her property and entered a communal gravesite. She stops a few feet before the tomb and begins to speak above the wind of a coming storm that passes through the scattered single-wides of the town. Her family, she explains, has been living in Ironton for five generations. “This is home for me,” she says. “My dad’s buried here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
Ironton is a tiny working class black community, just three large blocks spread out along the natural levee of the Mississippi River in the coastal parish of Plaquemines. There are perhaps 60 standing structures in the whole town, many of them mobile homes placed among the devastated ruins of Hurricane Isaac. Standing at the grave, Audrey boasts about the pastoral appeal of the town. We glance around and see small homes, thick woods just upriver, and open fields that run along the distant highway. A slim boy in sportsman’s camo hikes his way over the nearby levee to hunt the batture woods along the Mississippi River. A neighbor nods to us as he washes his car. For all the industry that’s encroaching on this hidden place, you’d never know it just by looking. 
The Phillips 66 Alliance oil refinery is located less than two miles upriver; and the Myrtle Grove Midstream Terminal—a mid-river grain elevator—less than two miles towards the coast. A coal export terminal, characterized by massive piles of exposed coal, is three miles downriver. United Bulk, another enormous open air terminal, is right across the river from that. On rainy days, pet coke and coal runs visibly from these terminal sites and into nearby ditches and waterways. Scott Eustis, an environmental wetlands specialist who oversees coastal use permits for the Gulf Restoration Network, captured this image, showing coal runoff making its way into the Mississippi River. On dry days, the wind catches sheets of pulverized mineral dust from the massive piles that sit bare along the river and spreads them for miles around. A film of grain, coal, and particulate from other surrounding industries is evident everywhere in Ironton: on cars, on porches, and inside homes. This dust, many environmentalists and residents worry, contributes to asthma rates in the community.
After returning to Audrey’s house, we settle around her dining room table as she laments the coal-dust piles, smoke stacks, and grain elevators that surround her community on all sides. “We feel that it’s environmental racism,” she says after a pause. “You don’t see this kind of thing anywhere else in the parish other than black communities. I mean,” she stands up to run her finger along the chandelier that hangs above the table, and holds out her hand to reveal a thick cake of dark grey dust on her fingertip, “I justed dusted this thing last week.”
And the situation, she fears, may soon get worse. In 2011, RAM Terminals LLC bought 602 acres of land just north of Ironton with the goal of building yet another coal exporting facility, significantly increasing the amount of coal surrounding the community. Air monitoring by community members indicates that the air particulate pollution levels in and around Ironton are already higher than what is deemed safe by international standards. There is tangible anxiety that the construction of yet another open-air coal terminal will only continue this trend.
RAM also plans the extension of a local railroad line to make transportation faster and easier. This would mean open coal cars traveling throughout Plaquemines Parish, potentially contributing to the dust and overall air pollution. The company and the local government have not yet decided where the new rail line will go, but during a community meeting convened to discuss the plan, two of the three options presented to the community would have the train routed directly through the heart of Ironton, yards away from residences.
As this drama plays out in the small Louisiana parish of Plaquemines, domestic and international demand priorities within the coal industry are shifting. The U.S. is slowly phasing out coal-fired power plants, while coal consumption in other regions of the globe is on the rise. Coal is one of the cheapest energy sources available, and many developing nations argue that it is the fastest way to modernize their infrastructure and bring power to their population. Rapid industrialization in Asia, especially in China and India, means that the long-term survival of the U.S. coal industry is increasingly linked to consumers thousands of miles away.
Read more and hear from Ironton residents in Part 2.
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
PROPOSED RAM COAL TERMINAL - IRONTON, LOUISIANA
Audrey Trufant Salvant’s father is buried less than 50 feet from her front door, in a little mausoleum that sits like an ornament in her yard. As we walk towards it, we pass no fence, road, or anything else to signify that we’ve left her property and entered a communal gravesite. She stops a few feet before the tomb and begins to speak above the wind of a coming storm that passes through the scattered single-wides of the town. Her family, she explains, has been living in Ironton for five generations. “This is home for me,” she says. “My dad’s buried here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
Ironton is a tiny working class black community, just three large blocks spread out along the natural levee of the Mississippi River in the coastal parish of Plaquemines. There are perhaps 60 standing structures in the whole town, many of them mobile homes placed among the devastated ruins of Hurricane Isaac. Standing at the grave, Audrey boasts about the pastoral appeal of the town. We glance around and see small homes, thick woods just upriver, and open fields that run along the distant highway. A slim boy in sportsman’s camo hikes his way over the nearby levee to hunt the batture woods along the Mississippi River. A neighbor nods to us as he washes his car. For all the industry that’s encroaching on this hidden place, you’d never know it just by looking. 
The Phillips 66 Alliance oil refinery is located less than two miles upriver; and the Myrtle Grove Midstream Terminal—a mid-river grain elevator—less than two miles towards the coast. A coal export terminal, characterized by massive piles of exposed coal, is three miles downriver. United Bulk, another enormous open air terminal, is right across the river from that. On rainy days, pet coke and coal runs visibly from these terminal sites and into nearby ditches and waterways. Scott Eustis, an environmental wetlands specialist who oversees coastal use permits for the Gulf Restoration Network, captured this image, showing coal runoff making its way into the Mississippi River. On dry days, the wind catches sheets of pulverized mineral dust from the massive piles that sit bare along the river and spreads them for miles around. A film of grain, coal, and particulate from other surrounding industries is evident everywhere in Ironton: on cars, on porches, and inside homes. This dust, many environmentalists and residents worry, contributes to asthma rates in the community.
After returning to Audrey’s house, we settle around her dining room table as she laments the coal-dust piles, smoke stacks, and grain elevators that surround her community on all sides. “We feel that it’s environmental racism,” she says after a pause. “You don’t see this kind of thing anywhere else in the parish other than black communities. I mean,” she stands up to run her finger along the chandelier that hangs above the table, and holds out her hand to reveal a thick cake of dark grey dust on her fingertip, “I justed dusted this thing last week.”
And the situation, she fears, may soon get worse. In 2011, RAM Terminals LLC bought 602 acres of land just north of Ironton with the goal of building yet another coal exporting facility, significantly increasing the amount of coal surrounding the community. Air monitoring by community members indicates that the air particulate pollution levels in and around Ironton are already higher than what is deemed safe by international standards. There is tangible anxiety that the construction of yet another open-air coal terminal will only continue this trend.
RAM also plans the extension of a local railroad line to make transportation faster and easier. This would mean open coal cars traveling throughout Plaquemines Parish, potentially contributing to the dust and overall air pollution. The company and the local government have not yet decided where the new rail line will go, but during a community meeting convened to discuss the plan, two of the three options presented to the community would have the train routed directly through the heart of Ironton, yards away from residences.
As this drama plays out in the small Louisiana parish of Plaquemines, domestic and international demand priorities within the coal industry are shifting. The U.S. is slowly phasing out coal-fired power plants, while coal consumption in other regions of the globe is on the rise. Coal is one of the cheapest energy sources available, and many developing nations argue that it is the fastest way to modernize their infrastructure and bring power to their population. Rapid industrialization in Asia, especially in China and India, means that the long-term survival of the U.S. coal industry is increasingly linked to consumers thousands of miles away.
Read more and hear from Ironton residents in Part 2.
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
PROPOSED RAM COAL TERMINAL - IRONTON, LOUISIANA
Audrey Trufant Salvant’s father is buried less than 50 feet from her front door, in a little mausoleum that sits like an ornament in her yard. As we walk towards it, we pass no fence, road, or anything else to signify that we’ve left her property and entered a communal gravesite. She stops a few feet before the tomb and begins to speak above the wind of a coming storm that passes through the scattered single-wides of the town. Her family, she explains, has been living in Ironton for five generations. “This is home for me,” she says. “My dad’s buried here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
Ironton is a tiny working class black community, just three large blocks spread out along the natural levee of the Mississippi River in the coastal parish of Plaquemines. There are perhaps 60 standing structures in the whole town, many of them mobile homes placed among the devastated ruins of Hurricane Isaac. Standing at the grave, Audrey boasts about the pastoral appeal of the town. We glance around and see small homes, thick woods just upriver, and open fields that run along the distant highway. A slim boy in sportsman’s camo hikes his way over the nearby levee to hunt the batture woods along the Mississippi River. A neighbor nods to us as he washes his car. For all the industry that’s encroaching on this hidden place, you’d never know it just by looking. 
The Phillips 66 Alliance oil refinery is located less than two miles upriver; and the Myrtle Grove Midstream Terminal—a mid-river grain elevator—less than two miles towards the coast. A coal export terminal, characterized by massive piles of exposed coal, is three miles downriver. United Bulk, another enormous open air terminal, is right across the river from that. On rainy days, pet coke and coal runs visibly from these terminal sites and into nearby ditches and waterways. Scott Eustis, an environmental wetlands specialist who oversees coastal use permits for the Gulf Restoration Network, captured this image, showing coal runoff making its way into the Mississippi River. On dry days, the wind catches sheets of pulverized mineral dust from the massive piles that sit bare along the river and spreads them for miles around. A film of grain, coal, and particulate from other surrounding industries is evident everywhere in Ironton: on cars, on porches, and inside homes. This dust, many environmentalists and residents worry, contributes to asthma rates in the community.
After returning to Audrey’s house, we settle around her dining room table as she laments the coal-dust piles, smoke stacks, and grain elevators that surround her community on all sides. “We feel that it’s environmental racism,” she says after a pause. “You don’t see this kind of thing anywhere else in the parish other than black communities. I mean,” she stands up to run her finger along the chandelier that hangs above the table, and holds out her hand to reveal a thick cake of dark grey dust on her fingertip, “I justed dusted this thing last week.”
And the situation, she fears, may soon get worse. In 2011, RAM Terminals LLC bought 602 acres of land just north of Ironton with the goal of building yet another coal exporting facility, significantly increasing the amount of coal surrounding the community. Air monitoring by community members indicates that the air particulate pollution levels in and around Ironton are already higher than what is deemed safe by international standards. There is tangible anxiety that the construction of yet another open-air coal terminal will only continue this trend.
RAM also plans the extension of a local railroad line to make transportation faster and easier. This would mean open coal cars traveling throughout Plaquemines Parish, potentially contributing to the dust and overall air pollution. The company and the local government have not yet decided where the new rail line will go, but during a community meeting convened to discuss the plan, two of the three options presented to the community would have the train routed directly through the heart of Ironton, yards away from residences.
As this drama plays out in the small Louisiana parish of Plaquemines, domestic and international demand priorities within the coal industry are shifting. The U.S. is slowly phasing out coal-fired power plants, while coal consumption in other regions of the globe is on the rise. Coal is one of the cheapest energy sources available, and many developing nations argue that it is the fastest way to modernize their infrastructure and bring power to their population. Rapid industrialization in Asia, especially in China and India, means that the long-term survival of the U.S. coal industry is increasingly linked to consumers thousands of miles away.
Read more and hear from Ironton residents in Part 2.
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info

PROPOSED RAM COAL TERMINAL - IRONTON, LOUISIANA

Audrey Trufant Salvant’s father is buried less than 50 feet from her front door, in a little mausoleum that sits like an ornament in her yard. As we walk towards it, we pass no fence, road, or anything else to signify that we’ve left her property and entered a communal gravesite. She stops a few feet before the tomb and begins to speak above the wind of a coming storm that passes through the scattered single-wides of the town. Her family, she explains, has been living in Ironton for five generations. “This is home for me,” she says. “My dad’s buried here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

Ironton is a tiny working class black community, just three large blocks spread out along the natural levee of the Mississippi River in the coastal parish of Plaquemines. There are perhaps 60 standing structures in the whole town, many of them mobile homes placed among the devastated ruins of Hurricane Isaac. Standing at the grave, Audrey boasts about the pastoral appeal of the town. We glance around and see small homes, thick woods just upriver, and open fields that run along the distant highway. A slim boy in sportsman’s camo hikes his way over the nearby levee to hunt the batture woods along the Mississippi River. A neighbor nods to us as he washes his car. For all the industry that’s encroaching on this hidden place, you’d never know it just by looking.

The Phillips 66 Alliance oil refinery is located less than two miles upriver; and the Myrtle Grove Midstream Terminal—a mid-river grain elevator—less than two miles towards the coast. A coal export terminal, characterized by massive piles of exposed coal, is three miles downriver. United Bulk, another enormous open air terminal, is right across the river from that. On rainy days, pet coke and coal runs visibly from these terminal sites and into nearby ditches and waterways. Scott Eustis, an environmental wetlands specialist who oversees coastal use permits for the Gulf Restoration Network, captured this image, showing coal runoff making its way into the Mississippi River. On dry days, the wind catches sheets of pulverized mineral dust from the massive piles that sit bare along the river and spreads them for miles around. A film of grain, coal, and particulate from other surrounding industries is evident everywhere in Ironton: on cars, on porches, and inside homes. This dust, many environmentalists and residents worry, contributes to asthma rates in the community.

After returning to Audrey’s house, we settle around her dining room table as she laments the coal-dust piles, smoke stacks, and grain elevators that surround her community on all sides. “We feel that it’s environmental racism,” she says after a pause. “You don’t see this kind of thing anywhere else in the parish other than black communities. I mean,” she stands up to run her finger along the chandelier that hangs above the table, and holds out her hand to reveal a thick cake of dark grey dust on her fingertip, “I justed dusted this thing last week.”

And the situation, she fears, may soon get worse. In 2011, RAM Terminals LLC bought 602 acres of land just north of Ironton with the goal of building yet another coal exporting facility, significantly increasing the amount of coal surrounding the community. Air monitoring by community members indicates that the air particulate pollution levels in and around Ironton are already higher than what is deemed safe by international standards. There is tangible anxiety that the construction of yet another open-air coal terminal will only continue this trend.

RAM also plans the extension of a local railroad line to make transportation faster and easier. This would mean open coal cars traveling throughout Plaquemines Parish, potentially contributing to the dust and overall air pollution. The company and the local government have not yet decided where the new rail line will go, but during a community meeting convened to discuss the plan, two of the three options presented to the community would have the train routed directly through the heart of Ironton, yards away from residences.

As this drama plays out in the small Louisiana parish of Plaquemines, domestic and international demand priorities within the coal industry are shifting. The U.S. is slowly phasing out coal-fired power plants, while coal consumption in other regions of the globe is on the rise. Coal is one of the cheapest energy sources available, and many developing nations argue that it is the fastest way to modernize their infrastructure and bring power to their population. Rapid industrialization in Asia, especially in China and India, means that the long-term survival of the U.S. coal industry is increasingly linked to consumers thousands of miles away.

Read more and hear from Ironton residents in Part 2.

* * *

Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.

JEAN LAFITTE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK AND PRESERVE - MARRERO, LOUISIANA
Covered in lichens, garlanded by Spanish moss comes this delta dispatch from photographer Elena Ricci:

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is located in Marrero, Louisiana, just south of New Orleans.
Sweeping landscapes of marsh reeds, palmetto thickets and soaring cypress trees make this park a prime example of the uniqueness of Louisiana’s Mississippi delta region. Hidden amongst the vegetation are critters, large and small, playing the predator and prey game on a picturesque backdrop. Great horned owls, vultures, alligators, boars, raccoons, rabbits, spiders and snakes are just a few of the animals that call this beautiful swampland home.
Visitors welcome, their door is always open.
[Some 35mm film, some 120mm film, some digital and some cell phone; All swamp.]

* * *
Elena Ricci is a photographer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana. Most of her photography focuses on the South, but she travels far and often. As an ongoing collaborative, she makes up one fourth of the lady photo ensemble Southerly Gold. Find Elena’s website at elenaricciphotography.com and follow her on Tumblr at elenaricciphotography.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
JEAN LAFITTE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK AND PRESERVE - MARRERO, LOUISIANA
Covered in lichens, garlanded by Spanish moss comes this delta dispatch from photographer Elena Ricci:

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is located in Marrero, Louisiana, just south of New Orleans.
Sweeping landscapes of marsh reeds, palmetto thickets and soaring cypress trees make this park a prime example of the uniqueness of Louisiana’s Mississippi delta region. Hidden amongst the vegetation are critters, large and small, playing the predator and prey game on a picturesque backdrop. Great horned owls, vultures, alligators, boars, raccoons, rabbits, spiders and snakes are just a few of the animals that call this beautiful swampland home.
Visitors welcome, their door is always open.
[Some 35mm film, some 120mm film, some digital and some cell phone; All swamp.]

* * *
Elena Ricci is a photographer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana. Most of her photography focuses on the South, but she travels far and often. As an ongoing collaborative, she makes up one fourth of the lady photo ensemble Southerly Gold. Find Elena’s website at elenaricciphotography.com and follow her on Tumblr at elenaricciphotography.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
JEAN LAFITTE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK AND PRESERVE - MARRERO, LOUISIANA
Covered in lichens, garlanded by Spanish moss comes this delta dispatch from photographer Elena Ricci:

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is located in Marrero, Louisiana, just south of New Orleans.
Sweeping landscapes of marsh reeds, palmetto thickets and soaring cypress trees make this park a prime example of the uniqueness of Louisiana’s Mississippi delta region. Hidden amongst the vegetation are critters, large and small, playing the predator and prey game on a picturesque backdrop. Great horned owls, vultures, alligators, boars, raccoons, rabbits, spiders and snakes are just a few of the animals that call this beautiful swampland home.
Visitors welcome, their door is always open.
[Some 35mm film, some 120mm film, some digital and some cell phone; All swamp.]

* * *
Elena Ricci is a photographer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana. Most of her photography focuses on the South, but she travels far and often. As an ongoing collaborative, she makes up one fourth of the lady photo ensemble Southerly Gold. Find Elena’s website at elenaricciphotography.com and follow her on Tumblr at elenaricciphotography.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
JEAN LAFITTE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK AND PRESERVE - MARRERO, LOUISIANA
Covered in lichens, garlanded by Spanish moss comes this delta dispatch from photographer Elena Ricci:

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is located in Marrero, Louisiana, just south of New Orleans.
Sweeping landscapes of marsh reeds, palmetto thickets and soaring cypress trees make this park a prime example of the uniqueness of Louisiana’s Mississippi delta region. Hidden amongst the vegetation are critters, large and small, playing the predator and prey game on a picturesque backdrop. Great horned owls, vultures, alligators, boars, raccoons, rabbits, spiders and snakes are just a few of the animals that call this beautiful swampland home.
Visitors welcome, their door is always open.
[Some 35mm film, some 120mm film, some digital and some cell phone; All swamp.]

* * *
Elena Ricci is a photographer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana. Most of her photography focuses on the South, but she travels far and often. As an ongoing collaborative, she makes up one fourth of the lady photo ensemble Southerly Gold. Find Elena’s website at elenaricciphotography.com and follow her on Tumblr at elenaricciphotography.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info

JEAN LAFITTE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK AND PRESERVE - MARRERO, LOUISIANA

Covered in lichens, garlanded by Spanish moss comes this delta dispatch from photographer Elena Ricci:

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is located in Marrero, Louisiana, just south of New Orleans.

Sweeping landscapes of marsh reeds, palmetto thickets and soaring cypress trees make this park a prime example of the uniqueness of Louisiana’s Mississippi delta region. Hidden amongst the vegetation are critters, large and small, playing the predator and prey game on a picturesque backdrop. Great horned owls, vultures, alligators, boars, raccoons, rabbits, spiders and snakes are just a few of the animals that call this beautiful swampland home.

Visitors welcome, their door is always open.

[Some 35mm film, some 120mm film, some digital and some cell phone; All swamp.]

* * *

Elena Ricci is a photographer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana. Most of her photography focuses on the South, but she travels far and often. As an ongoing collaborative, she makes up one fourth of the lady photo ensemble Southerly Gold. Find Elena’s website at elenaricciphotography.com and follow her on Tumblr at elenaricciphotography.tumblr.com.

DRAINAGE CANALS - LOUISIANA
Your Guides to Louisiana, Breonne DeDecker and Darin Acosta, check in with this dispatch for American Guide Field Assignment #8 - Waterways:

in 1940 the louisiana state government, under the direction of governor sam houston jones, inaugurated a program for rehabilitating the existing drainage system of the state and extending it into undeveloped areas. this program promises to mark the beginning of a new and, it is hoped, more rational period in the long history of louisiana’s effort to protect her alluvial and prairie lands from floods and drain them for agriculture.
it is no exaggeration to say that the welfare and prosperity of louisiana depend upon the successful operation of flood control and drainage works. about 40 percent of the state’s 29 million acres lie in the alluvial valleys of the mississippi, red, and other rivers. the rich, alluvial agricultural lands and the larger centers of population are in the direct path of potential floods. the elaborate levee program designed to protect this area has closed much of the natural drainage so that it has long been necessary to construct artificial canals for the removal of surface water. this task has become more difficult as land clearing has moved from the higher natural levee lands to the lower interstream areas. the slight slope of much of the mississippi alluvial valley and the western prairies and the high rate of rainfall combine to make the removal of surface water a difficult and expensive task.
robert, harrison w. “louisiana’s state-sponsored drainage program.” southern economic association 14.4 (1948): 387-403. print.
top image: drainage canal. kenner, louisiana. january 2013.
bottom image: drainage canal. laplace, louisiana. september 2012.

* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
DRAINAGE CANALS - LOUISIANA
Your Guides to Louisiana, Breonne DeDecker and Darin Acosta, check in with this dispatch for American Guide Field Assignment #8 - Waterways:

in 1940 the louisiana state government, under the direction of governor sam houston jones, inaugurated a program for rehabilitating the existing drainage system of the state and extending it into undeveloped areas. this program promises to mark the beginning of a new and, it is hoped, more rational period in the long history of louisiana’s effort to protect her alluvial and prairie lands from floods and drain them for agriculture.
it is no exaggeration to say that the welfare and prosperity of louisiana depend upon the successful operation of flood control and drainage works. about 40 percent of the state’s 29 million acres lie in the alluvial valleys of the mississippi, red, and other rivers. the rich, alluvial agricultural lands and the larger centers of population are in the direct path of potential floods. the elaborate levee program designed to protect this area has closed much of the natural drainage so that it has long been necessary to construct artificial canals for the removal of surface water. this task has become more difficult as land clearing has moved from the higher natural levee lands to the lower interstream areas. the slight slope of much of the mississippi alluvial valley and the western prairies and the high rate of rainfall combine to make the removal of surface water a difficult and expensive task.
robert, harrison w. “louisiana’s state-sponsored drainage program.” southern economic association 14.4 (1948): 387-403. print.
top image: drainage canal. kenner, louisiana. january 2013.
bottom image: drainage canal. laplace, louisiana. september 2012.

* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info

DRAINAGE CANALS - LOUISIANA

Your Guides to Louisiana, Breonne DeDecker and Darin Acosta, check in with this dispatch for American Guide Field Assignment #8 - Waterways:

in 1940 the louisiana state government, under the direction of governor sam houston jones, inaugurated a program for rehabilitating the existing drainage system of the state and extending it into undeveloped areas. this program promises to mark the beginning of a new and, it is hoped, more rational period in the long history of louisiana’s effort to protect her alluvial and prairie lands from floods and drain them for agriculture.

it is no exaggeration to say that the welfare and prosperity of louisiana depend upon the successful operation of flood control and drainage works. about 40 percent of the state’s 29 million acres lie in the alluvial valleys of the mississippi, red, and other rivers. the rich, alluvial agricultural lands and the larger centers of population are in the direct path of potential floods. the elaborate levee program designed to protect this area has closed much of the natural drainage so that it has long been necessary to construct artificial canals for the removal of surface water. this task has become more difficult as land clearing has moved from the higher natural levee lands to the lower interstream areas. the slight slope of much of the mississippi alluvial valley and the western prairies and the high rate of rainfall combine to make the removal of surface water a difficult and expensive task.

robert, harrison w. “louisiana’s state-sponsored drainage program.” southern economic association 14.4 (1948): 387-403. print.

top image: drainage canal. kenner, louisiana. january 2013.

bottom image: drainage canal. laplace, louisiana. september 2012.

* * *

Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.

RUSTON, LOUISIANA

RUSTON (311 alt., 4,400 pop.), seat of Lincoln Parish, is a farming and dairying town in the pine hills of north-central Louisiana. … Ruston’s first business was established in the form of an eating-house operated by a Dutchman named Joe Schwab, “who possessed a mockingbird that whistled popular tunes and a wife with a generous disposition but a quick temper.”

—Louisiana, A Guide To the State (WPA, 1941)

These days, Ruston’s a bit bigger with a population of around 21,500 residents. Louisiana native Bailey Craighead sends word of some off-the-beaten path treasures from her town in the northern part of the state:

The first picture is my favorite little school house that is 100+ years old that I pass everyday going to work at my dad’s store. I love finding little gems like this along the back roads of this great state.

The second picture is my favorite new thing in my hometown because I was one of the 13 people who built it. It was so invigorating to learn how to work the metal and concrete in a way that it would create something intricate, detailed and just all around bad ass. This is an entry pavilion to a park and is a wonderful place to read and gather.

What you’re seeing in that second photo is the entry pavilion to Huckleberry Trails, the city of Ruston’s newest park. The pavilion and sign were “conceived, fabricated and assembled” by students at Louisiana Tech’s School of Architecture.

* * *

Bailey Craighead is a Louisiana native. Follow her on Tumblr at i-followed-fire.tumblr.com.

HURRICANE ISAAC, ONE YEAR LATER - LOUISIANA
A year ago today, Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans. The city was largely spared. Power outages darkened the streets, but when day broke, it revealed little flooding, and no damage from the storm surge. At the far reaches of the metropolitan area, in decaying exurbs and working-poor agricultural communities, the storm was far less merciful.
On the east side of Plaquemines Parish, which sits wide open before the Gulf of Mexico, the surge came down like a chop saw. A wall of water tore apart the town of Braithwaite. It ripped tombs from the cemetery and spread them miles around. They were flipped and tumbled into all sorts of odd arrangements. Some sat in piles. Others were leaning vertically against trees with their caskets exposed. People walked amongst the ruined graveyards, scrawling their names and phone numbers on the tombs of their deceased kin. Houses were lifted up and deposited on the crest of the twenty five foot levee that ran along the Mississippi River. Every little thing in sight was waterlogged and broken. The air was heavy and stank of rot, insinuating the number of dead animals deep in the surrounding woods.
From Braithwaite, the storm continued west. LaPlace is a community on the opposite side of Lake Pontchartrain. It’s a vast horizon of parking lots and low-rent strip malls. Subdivisions blossom out across the hollowed bottomlands like nebulous dust. Following the initial surge that took out Braithwaite, Isaac entered Lake Pontchartrain and gathered a second surge, building strength and racing towards Laplace.
Though the survivors have moved on and memories have faded, there exists a rather dramatic precedent for Isaac’s path.
In 1915, a hurricane came out of the West Indies. It hit the coast with force, spared New Orleans, and cut a line across Lake Pontchartrain, building a surge as it bore toward the west side of the lake. It exploded onto the cypress shores with indescribable fury, annihilating the small German settlements of Frenier and LaBranche. All the homes were blasted and strewn across the lake. Many of the villagers died. A few were able to survive by taking refuge in a stalled boxcar even as the train trestle it rested on began to disintegrate.
Today, Frenier is a sparsely settled fishing outpost and LaBranche is a cypress swamp that hasn’t seen any residential development since that tragic storm. But things could have been different. In the 1970s, during a rapid stage of St. Charles Parish’s industrial growth, land speculators were pushing hard to turn LaBranche into the diffuse exurban landscape that the nearby town of LaPlace is today. Speculators were buying up huge tracts of land all across the swamp. These investors believed that the Army Corps of Engineers would build a hurricane protection levee along the shore of the lake, thus making their properties eligible for federally subsidized flood insurance. Wetland preservation policies forced the Army Corps to reroute the levee, which now runs roughly parallel with Airline Highway and less than a quarter of a mile to its north, making development of the LaBranche Wetlands financially infeasible.
The day following Hurricane Isaac, Breonne and I visited the Wetland Watcher’s Park, near the site where the extinct town of LaBranche once stood. The park benches, anchored in cement, were ripped up from the ground and strewn about. Boardwalks that previously traversed the cypress swamps had completely collapsed into the water. Mud and sediment carried by the storm surge clung to every surface. The storm’s strength and intensity were evident, but since the area has remained mostly undeveloped since 1915, we witnessed little destruction. I imagined if LaBranche was the enormous lakefront suburb that many had hoped it would become; if rather than upturned benches and felled cypress trees, there existed the dream homes of Lakeland Gardens, or the office complexes of the LaBranche Industrial Park. The concrete slabs of these developments would have rested on the literal bones of the extinct village of LaBranche. Would it have met the same fate? Would Isaac have overwhelmed the neighborhood’s flood protection levee like Katrina did to the Lower Ninth Ward? Would the pumping system have failed, as has happened countless times in communities across south Louisiana?
From LaBranche, we continued on to LaPlace, where those notional scenes of suburban devastation became reality. Standing water covered the streets. Home-interior detritus lined every curb, some of it stacked eight feet high. We were unable to see the most extensive devastation because the streets were too flooded to continue. Red Cross emergency relief shelters along Airline Highway were packed. Hundreds of households were destroyed. Millions of dollars in damage had been wrought.
Nearly a century divides the West Indian Hurricane of 1915 from the storm that devastated Braithwaite and LaPlace on August 29th of 2012. The parallels between these two storms are a large component of our research into the cycles of creation and destruction that occur socially, economically, and environmentally in south Louisiana. Highways, storm drains, oil pipelines, floods, flames, and the decline of the late American suburb are all netting in the tangled web that marries these two storms. Our research continues forward, but we wanted to use this anniversary as an opportunity to share where we’re at so far.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Guide Notes:
See longtime St. John Parish resident Donald Tregre as he tells stories from the West Indian Hurricane (1915) and Hurricane Isaac (2012) in THE WEST INDIAN HURRICANE OF 1915 
Map: 1970’s Speculative Land Developments in the LaBranche Wetlands
* * *
Louisiana Guide Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Louisiana Guide Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
HURRICANE ISAAC, ONE YEAR LATER - LOUISIANA
A year ago today, Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans. The city was largely spared. Power outages darkened the streets, but when day broke, it revealed little flooding, and no damage from the storm surge. At the far reaches of the metropolitan area, in decaying exurbs and working-poor agricultural communities, the storm was far less merciful.
On the east side of Plaquemines Parish, which sits wide open before the Gulf of Mexico, the surge came down like a chop saw. A wall of water tore apart the town of Braithwaite. It ripped tombs from the cemetery and spread them miles around. They were flipped and tumbled into all sorts of odd arrangements. Some sat in piles. Others were leaning vertically against trees with their caskets exposed. People walked amongst the ruined graveyards, scrawling their names and phone numbers on the tombs of their deceased kin. Houses were lifted up and deposited on the crest of the twenty five foot levee that ran along the Mississippi River. Every little thing in sight was waterlogged and broken. The air was heavy and stank of rot, insinuating the number of dead animals deep in the surrounding woods.
From Braithwaite, the storm continued west. LaPlace is a community on the opposite side of Lake Pontchartrain. It’s a vast horizon of parking lots and low-rent strip malls. Subdivisions blossom out across the hollowed bottomlands like nebulous dust. Following the initial surge that took out Braithwaite, Isaac entered Lake Pontchartrain and gathered a second surge, building strength and racing towards Laplace.
Though the survivors have moved on and memories have faded, there exists a rather dramatic precedent for Isaac’s path.
In 1915, a hurricane came out of the West Indies. It hit the coast with force, spared New Orleans, and cut a line across Lake Pontchartrain, building a surge as it bore toward the west side of the lake. It exploded onto the cypress shores with indescribable fury, annihilating the small German settlements of Frenier and LaBranche. All the homes were blasted and strewn across the lake. Many of the villagers died. A few were able to survive by taking refuge in a stalled boxcar even as the train trestle it rested on began to disintegrate.
Today, Frenier is a sparsely settled fishing outpost and LaBranche is a cypress swamp that hasn’t seen any residential development since that tragic storm. But things could have been different. In the 1970s, during a rapid stage of St. Charles Parish’s industrial growth, land speculators were pushing hard to turn LaBranche into the diffuse exurban landscape that the nearby town of LaPlace is today. Speculators were buying up huge tracts of land all across the swamp. These investors believed that the Army Corps of Engineers would build a hurricane protection levee along the shore of the lake, thus making their properties eligible for federally subsidized flood insurance. Wetland preservation policies forced the Army Corps to reroute the levee, which now runs roughly parallel with Airline Highway and less than a quarter of a mile to its north, making development of the LaBranche Wetlands financially infeasible.
The day following Hurricane Isaac, Breonne and I visited the Wetland Watcher’s Park, near the site where the extinct town of LaBranche once stood. The park benches, anchored in cement, were ripped up from the ground and strewn about. Boardwalks that previously traversed the cypress swamps had completely collapsed into the water. Mud and sediment carried by the storm surge clung to every surface. The storm’s strength and intensity were evident, but since the area has remained mostly undeveloped since 1915, we witnessed little destruction. I imagined if LaBranche was the enormous lakefront suburb that many had hoped it would become; if rather than upturned benches and felled cypress trees, there existed the dream homes of Lakeland Gardens, or the office complexes of the LaBranche Industrial Park. The concrete slabs of these developments would have rested on the literal bones of the extinct village of LaBranche. Would it have met the same fate? Would Isaac have overwhelmed the neighborhood’s flood protection levee like Katrina did to the Lower Ninth Ward? Would the pumping system have failed, as has happened countless times in communities across south Louisiana?
From LaBranche, we continued on to LaPlace, where those notional scenes of suburban devastation became reality. Standing water covered the streets. Home-interior detritus lined every curb, some of it stacked eight feet high. We were unable to see the most extensive devastation because the streets were too flooded to continue. Red Cross emergency relief shelters along Airline Highway were packed. Hundreds of households were destroyed. Millions of dollars in damage had been wrought.
Nearly a century divides the West Indian Hurricane of 1915 from the storm that devastated Braithwaite and LaPlace on August 29th of 2012. The parallels between these two storms are a large component of our research into the cycles of creation and destruction that occur socially, economically, and environmentally in south Louisiana. Highways, storm drains, oil pipelines, floods, flames, and the decline of the late American suburb are all netting in the tangled web that marries these two storms. Our research continues forward, but we wanted to use this anniversary as an opportunity to share where we’re at so far.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Guide Notes:
See longtime St. John Parish resident Donald Tregre as he tells stories from the West Indian Hurricane (1915) and Hurricane Isaac (2012) in THE WEST INDIAN HURRICANE OF 1915 
Map: 1970’s Speculative Land Developments in the LaBranche Wetlands
* * *
Louisiana Guide Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Louisiana Guide Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
HURRICANE ISAAC, ONE YEAR LATER - LOUISIANA
A year ago today, Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans. The city was largely spared. Power outages darkened the streets, but when day broke, it revealed little flooding, and no damage from the storm surge. At the far reaches of the metropolitan area, in decaying exurbs and working-poor agricultural communities, the storm was far less merciful.
On the east side of Plaquemines Parish, which sits wide open before the Gulf of Mexico, the surge came down like a chop saw. A wall of water tore apart the town of Braithwaite. It ripped tombs from the cemetery and spread them miles around. They were flipped and tumbled into all sorts of odd arrangements. Some sat in piles. Others were leaning vertically against trees with their caskets exposed. People walked amongst the ruined graveyards, scrawling their names and phone numbers on the tombs of their deceased kin. Houses were lifted up and deposited on the crest of the twenty five foot levee that ran along the Mississippi River. Every little thing in sight was waterlogged and broken. The air was heavy and stank of rot, insinuating the number of dead animals deep in the surrounding woods.
From Braithwaite, the storm continued west. LaPlace is a community on the opposite side of Lake Pontchartrain. It’s a vast horizon of parking lots and low-rent strip malls. Subdivisions blossom out across the hollowed bottomlands like nebulous dust. Following the initial surge that took out Braithwaite, Isaac entered Lake Pontchartrain and gathered a second surge, building strength and racing towards Laplace.
Though the survivors have moved on and memories have faded, there exists a rather dramatic precedent for Isaac’s path.
In 1915, a hurricane came out of the West Indies. It hit the coast with force, spared New Orleans, and cut a line across Lake Pontchartrain, building a surge as it bore toward the west side of the lake. It exploded onto the cypress shores with indescribable fury, annihilating the small German settlements of Frenier and LaBranche. All the homes were blasted and strewn across the lake. Many of the villagers died. A few were able to survive by taking refuge in a stalled boxcar even as the train trestle it rested on began to disintegrate.
Today, Frenier is a sparsely settled fishing outpost and LaBranche is a cypress swamp that hasn’t seen any residential development since that tragic storm. But things could have been different. In the 1970s, during a rapid stage of St. Charles Parish’s industrial growth, land speculators were pushing hard to turn LaBranche into the diffuse exurban landscape that the nearby town of LaPlace is today. Speculators were buying up huge tracts of land all across the swamp. These investors believed that the Army Corps of Engineers would build a hurricane protection levee along the shore of the lake, thus making their properties eligible for federally subsidized flood insurance. Wetland preservation policies forced the Army Corps to reroute the levee, which now runs roughly parallel with Airline Highway and less than a quarter of a mile to its north, making development of the LaBranche Wetlands financially infeasible.
The day following Hurricane Isaac, Breonne and I visited the Wetland Watcher’s Park, near the site where the extinct town of LaBranche once stood. The park benches, anchored in cement, were ripped up from the ground and strewn about. Boardwalks that previously traversed the cypress swamps had completely collapsed into the water. Mud and sediment carried by the storm surge clung to every surface. The storm’s strength and intensity were evident, but since the area has remained mostly undeveloped since 1915, we witnessed little destruction. I imagined if LaBranche was the enormous lakefront suburb that many had hoped it would become; if rather than upturned benches and felled cypress trees, there existed the dream homes of Lakeland Gardens, or the office complexes of the LaBranche Industrial Park. The concrete slabs of these developments would have rested on the literal bones of the extinct village of LaBranche. Would it have met the same fate? Would Isaac have overwhelmed the neighborhood’s flood protection levee like Katrina did to the Lower Ninth Ward? Would the pumping system have failed, as has happened countless times in communities across south Louisiana?
From LaBranche, we continued on to LaPlace, where those notional scenes of suburban devastation became reality. Standing water covered the streets. Home-interior detritus lined every curb, some of it stacked eight feet high. We were unable to see the most extensive devastation because the streets were too flooded to continue. Red Cross emergency relief shelters along Airline Highway were packed. Hundreds of households were destroyed. Millions of dollars in damage had been wrought.
Nearly a century divides the West Indian Hurricane of 1915 from the storm that devastated Braithwaite and LaPlace on August 29th of 2012. The parallels between these two storms are a large component of our research into the cycles of creation and destruction that occur socially, economically, and environmentally in south Louisiana. Highways, storm drains, oil pipelines, floods, flames, and the decline of the late American suburb are all netting in the tangled web that marries these two storms. Our research continues forward, but we wanted to use this anniversary as an opportunity to share where we’re at so far.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Guide Notes:
See longtime St. John Parish resident Donald Tregre as he tells stories from the West Indian Hurricane (1915) and Hurricane Isaac (2012) in THE WEST INDIAN HURRICANE OF 1915 
Map: 1970’s Speculative Land Developments in the LaBranche Wetlands
* * *
Louisiana Guide Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Louisiana Guide Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
HURRICANE ISAAC, ONE YEAR LATER - LOUISIANA
A year ago today, Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans. The city was largely spared. Power outages darkened the streets, but when day broke, it revealed little flooding, and no damage from the storm surge. At the far reaches of the metropolitan area, in decaying exurbs and working-poor agricultural communities, the storm was far less merciful.
On the east side of Plaquemines Parish, which sits wide open before the Gulf of Mexico, the surge came down like a chop saw. A wall of water tore apart the town of Braithwaite. It ripped tombs from the cemetery and spread them miles around. They were flipped and tumbled into all sorts of odd arrangements. Some sat in piles. Others were leaning vertically against trees with their caskets exposed. People walked amongst the ruined graveyards, scrawling their names and phone numbers on the tombs of their deceased kin. Houses were lifted up and deposited on the crest of the twenty five foot levee that ran along the Mississippi River. Every little thing in sight was waterlogged and broken. The air was heavy and stank of rot, insinuating the number of dead animals deep in the surrounding woods.
From Braithwaite, the storm continued west. LaPlace is a community on the opposite side of Lake Pontchartrain. It’s a vast horizon of parking lots and low-rent strip malls. Subdivisions blossom out across the hollowed bottomlands like nebulous dust. Following the initial surge that took out Braithwaite, Isaac entered Lake Pontchartrain and gathered a second surge, building strength and racing towards Laplace.
Though the survivors have moved on and memories have faded, there exists a rather dramatic precedent for Isaac’s path.
In 1915, a hurricane came out of the West Indies. It hit the coast with force, spared New Orleans, and cut a line across Lake Pontchartrain, building a surge as it bore toward the west side of the lake. It exploded onto the cypress shores with indescribable fury, annihilating the small German settlements of Frenier and LaBranche. All the homes were blasted and strewn across the lake. Many of the villagers died. A few were able to survive by taking refuge in a stalled boxcar even as the train trestle it rested on began to disintegrate.
Today, Frenier is a sparsely settled fishing outpost and LaBranche is a cypress swamp that hasn’t seen any residential development since that tragic storm. But things could have been different. In the 1970s, during a rapid stage of St. Charles Parish’s industrial growth, land speculators were pushing hard to turn LaBranche into the diffuse exurban landscape that the nearby town of LaPlace is today. Speculators were buying up huge tracts of land all across the swamp. These investors believed that the Army Corps of Engineers would build a hurricane protection levee along the shore of the lake, thus making their properties eligible for federally subsidized flood insurance. Wetland preservation policies forced the Army Corps to reroute the levee, which now runs roughly parallel with Airline Highway and less than a quarter of a mile to its north, making development of the LaBranche Wetlands financially infeasible.
The day following Hurricane Isaac, Breonne and I visited the Wetland Watcher’s Park, near the site where the extinct town of LaBranche once stood. The park benches, anchored in cement, were ripped up from the ground and strewn about. Boardwalks that previously traversed the cypress swamps had completely collapsed into the water. Mud and sediment carried by the storm surge clung to every surface. The storm’s strength and intensity were evident, but since the area has remained mostly undeveloped since 1915, we witnessed little destruction. I imagined if LaBranche was the enormous lakefront suburb that many had hoped it would become; if rather than upturned benches and felled cypress trees, there existed the dream homes of Lakeland Gardens, or the office complexes of the LaBranche Industrial Park. The concrete slabs of these developments would have rested on the literal bones of the extinct village of LaBranche. Would it have met the same fate? Would Isaac have overwhelmed the neighborhood’s flood protection levee like Katrina did to the Lower Ninth Ward? Would the pumping system have failed, as has happened countless times in communities across south Louisiana?
From LaBranche, we continued on to LaPlace, where those notional scenes of suburban devastation became reality. Standing water covered the streets. Home-interior detritus lined every curb, some of it stacked eight feet high. We were unable to see the most extensive devastation because the streets were too flooded to continue. Red Cross emergency relief shelters along Airline Highway were packed. Hundreds of households were destroyed. Millions of dollars in damage had been wrought.
Nearly a century divides the West Indian Hurricane of 1915 from the storm that devastated Braithwaite and LaPlace on August 29th of 2012. The parallels between these two storms are a large component of our research into the cycles of creation and destruction that occur socially, economically, and environmentally in south Louisiana. Highways, storm drains, oil pipelines, floods, flames, and the decline of the late American suburb are all netting in the tangled web that marries these two storms. Our research continues forward, but we wanted to use this anniversary as an opportunity to share where we’re at so far.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Guide Notes:
See longtime St. John Parish resident Donald Tregre as he tells stories from the West Indian Hurricane (1915) and Hurricane Isaac (2012) in THE WEST INDIAN HURRICANE OF 1915 
Map: 1970’s Speculative Land Developments in the LaBranche Wetlands
* * *
Louisiana Guide Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Louisiana Guide Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
HURRICANE ISAAC, ONE YEAR LATER - LOUISIANA
A year ago today, Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans. The city was largely spared. Power outages darkened the streets, but when day broke, it revealed little flooding, and no damage from the storm surge. At the far reaches of the metropolitan area, in decaying exurbs and working-poor agricultural communities, the storm was far less merciful.
On the east side of Plaquemines Parish, which sits wide open before the Gulf of Mexico, the surge came down like a chop saw. A wall of water tore apart the town of Braithwaite. It ripped tombs from the cemetery and spread them miles around. They were flipped and tumbled into all sorts of odd arrangements. Some sat in piles. Others were leaning vertically against trees with their caskets exposed. People walked amongst the ruined graveyards, scrawling their names and phone numbers on the tombs of their deceased kin. Houses were lifted up and deposited on the crest of the twenty five foot levee that ran along the Mississippi River. Every little thing in sight was waterlogged and broken. The air was heavy and stank of rot, insinuating the number of dead animals deep in the surrounding woods.
From Braithwaite, the storm continued west. LaPlace is a community on the opposite side of Lake Pontchartrain. It’s a vast horizon of parking lots and low-rent strip malls. Subdivisions blossom out across the hollowed bottomlands like nebulous dust. Following the initial surge that took out Braithwaite, Isaac entered Lake Pontchartrain and gathered a second surge, building strength and racing towards Laplace.
Though the survivors have moved on and memories have faded, there exists a rather dramatic precedent for Isaac’s path.
In 1915, a hurricane came out of the West Indies. It hit the coast with force, spared New Orleans, and cut a line across Lake Pontchartrain, building a surge as it bore toward the west side of the lake. It exploded onto the cypress shores with indescribable fury, annihilating the small German settlements of Frenier and LaBranche. All the homes were blasted and strewn across the lake. Many of the villagers died. A few were able to survive by taking refuge in a stalled boxcar even as the train trestle it rested on began to disintegrate.
Today, Frenier is a sparsely settled fishing outpost and LaBranche is a cypress swamp that hasn’t seen any residential development since that tragic storm. But things could have been different. In the 1970s, during a rapid stage of St. Charles Parish’s industrial growth, land speculators were pushing hard to turn LaBranche into the diffuse exurban landscape that the nearby town of LaPlace is today. Speculators were buying up huge tracts of land all across the swamp. These investors believed that the Army Corps of Engineers would build a hurricane protection levee along the shore of the lake, thus making their properties eligible for federally subsidized flood insurance. Wetland preservation policies forced the Army Corps to reroute the levee, which now runs roughly parallel with Airline Highway and less than a quarter of a mile to its north, making development of the LaBranche Wetlands financially infeasible.
The day following Hurricane Isaac, Breonne and I visited the Wetland Watcher’s Park, near the site where the extinct town of LaBranche once stood. The park benches, anchored in cement, were ripped up from the ground and strewn about. Boardwalks that previously traversed the cypress swamps had completely collapsed into the water. Mud and sediment carried by the storm surge clung to every surface. The storm’s strength and intensity were evident, but since the area has remained mostly undeveloped since 1915, we witnessed little destruction. I imagined if LaBranche was the enormous lakefront suburb that many had hoped it would become; if rather than upturned benches and felled cypress trees, there existed the dream homes of Lakeland Gardens, or the office complexes of the LaBranche Industrial Park. The concrete slabs of these developments would have rested on the literal bones of the extinct village of LaBranche. Would it have met the same fate? Would Isaac have overwhelmed the neighborhood’s flood protection levee like Katrina did to the Lower Ninth Ward? Would the pumping system have failed, as has happened countless times in communities across south Louisiana?
From LaBranche, we continued on to LaPlace, where those notional scenes of suburban devastation became reality. Standing water covered the streets. Home-interior detritus lined every curb, some of it stacked eight feet high. We were unable to see the most extensive devastation because the streets were too flooded to continue. Red Cross emergency relief shelters along Airline Highway were packed. Hundreds of households were destroyed. Millions of dollars in damage had been wrought.
Nearly a century divides the West Indian Hurricane of 1915 from the storm that devastated Braithwaite and LaPlace on August 29th of 2012. The parallels between these two storms are a large component of our research into the cycles of creation and destruction that occur socially, economically, and environmentally in south Louisiana. Highways, storm drains, oil pipelines, floods, flames, and the decline of the late American suburb are all netting in the tangled web that marries these two storms. Our research continues forward, but we wanted to use this anniversary as an opportunity to share where we’re at so far.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Guide Notes:
See longtime St. John Parish resident Donald Tregre as he tells stories from the West Indian Hurricane (1915) and Hurricane Isaac (2012) in THE WEST INDIAN HURRICANE OF 1915 
Map: 1970’s Speculative Land Developments in the LaBranche Wetlands
* * *
Louisiana Guide Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Louisiana Guide Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
HURRICANE ISAAC, ONE YEAR LATER - LOUISIANA
A year ago today, Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans. The city was largely spared. Power outages darkened the streets, but when day broke, it revealed little flooding, and no damage from the storm surge. At the far reaches of the metropolitan area, in decaying exurbs and working-poor agricultural communities, the storm was far less merciful.
On the east side of Plaquemines Parish, which sits wide open before the Gulf of Mexico, the surge came down like a chop saw. A wall of water tore apart the town of Braithwaite. It ripped tombs from the cemetery and spread them miles around. They were flipped and tumbled into all sorts of odd arrangements. Some sat in piles. Others were leaning vertically against trees with their caskets exposed. People walked amongst the ruined graveyards, scrawling their names and phone numbers on the tombs of their deceased kin. Houses were lifted up and deposited on the crest of the twenty five foot levee that ran along the Mississippi River. Every little thing in sight was waterlogged and broken. The air was heavy and stank of rot, insinuating the number of dead animals deep in the surrounding woods.
From Braithwaite, the storm continued west. LaPlace is a community on the opposite side of Lake Pontchartrain. It’s a vast horizon of parking lots and low-rent strip malls. Subdivisions blossom out across the hollowed bottomlands like nebulous dust. Following the initial surge that took out Braithwaite, Isaac entered Lake Pontchartrain and gathered a second surge, building strength and racing towards Laplace.
Though the survivors have moved on and memories have faded, there exists a rather dramatic precedent for Isaac’s path.
In 1915, a hurricane came out of the West Indies. It hit the coast with force, spared New Orleans, and cut a line across Lake Pontchartrain, building a surge as it bore toward the west side of the lake. It exploded onto the cypress shores with indescribable fury, annihilating the small German settlements of Frenier and LaBranche. All the homes were blasted and strewn across the lake. Many of the villagers died. A few were able to survive by taking refuge in a stalled boxcar even as the train trestle it rested on began to disintegrate.
Today, Frenier is a sparsely settled fishing outpost and LaBranche is a cypress swamp that hasn’t seen any residential development since that tragic storm. But things could have been different. In the 1970s, during a rapid stage of St. Charles Parish’s industrial growth, land speculators were pushing hard to turn LaBranche into the diffuse exurban landscape that the nearby town of LaPlace is today. Speculators were buying up huge tracts of land all across the swamp. These investors believed that the Army Corps of Engineers would build a hurricane protection levee along the shore of the lake, thus making their properties eligible for federally subsidized flood insurance. Wetland preservation policies forced the Army Corps to reroute the levee, which now runs roughly parallel with Airline Highway and less than a quarter of a mile to its north, making development of the LaBranche Wetlands financially infeasible.
The day following Hurricane Isaac, Breonne and I visited the Wetland Watcher’s Park, near the site where the extinct town of LaBranche once stood. The park benches, anchored in cement, were ripped up from the ground and strewn about. Boardwalks that previously traversed the cypress swamps had completely collapsed into the water. Mud and sediment carried by the storm surge clung to every surface. The storm’s strength and intensity were evident, but since the area has remained mostly undeveloped since 1915, we witnessed little destruction. I imagined if LaBranche was the enormous lakefront suburb that many had hoped it would become; if rather than upturned benches and felled cypress trees, there existed the dream homes of Lakeland Gardens, or the office complexes of the LaBranche Industrial Park. The concrete slabs of these developments would have rested on the literal bones of the extinct village of LaBranche. Would it have met the same fate? Would Isaac have overwhelmed the neighborhood’s flood protection levee like Katrina did to the Lower Ninth Ward? Would the pumping system have failed, as has happened countless times in communities across south Louisiana?
From LaBranche, we continued on to LaPlace, where those notional scenes of suburban devastation became reality. Standing water covered the streets. Home-interior detritus lined every curb, some of it stacked eight feet high. We were unable to see the most extensive devastation because the streets were too flooded to continue. Red Cross emergency relief shelters along Airline Highway were packed. Hundreds of households were destroyed. Millions of dollars in damage had been wrought.
Nearly a century divides the West Indian Hurricane of 1915 from the storm that devastated Braithwaite and LaPlace on August 29th of 2012. The parallels between these two storms are a large component of our research into the cycles of creation and destruction that occur socially, economically, and environmentally in south Louisiana. Highways, storm drains, oil pipelines, floods, flames, and the decline of the late American suburb are all netting in the tangled web that marries these two storms. Our research continues forward, but we wanted to use this anniversary as an opportunity to share where we’re at so far.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Guide Notes:
See longtime St. John Parish resident Donald Tregre as he tells stories from the West Indian Hurricane (1915) and Hurricane Isaac (2012) in THE WEST INDIAN HURRICANE OF 1915 
Map: 1970’s Speculative Land Developments in the LaBranche Wetlands
* * *
Louisiana Guide Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Louisiana Guide Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
HURRICANE ISAAC, ONE YEAR LATER - LOUISIANA
A year ago today, Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans. The city was largely spared. Power outages darkened the streets, but when day broke, it revealed little flooding, and no damage from the storm surge. At the far reaches of the metropolitan area, in decaying exurbs and working-poor agricultural communities, the storm was far less merciful.
On the east side of Plaquemines Parish, which sits wide open before the Gulf of Mexico, the surge came down like a chop saw. A wall of water tore apart the town of Braithwaite. It ripped tombs from the cemetery and spread them miles around. They were flipped and tumbled into all sorts of odd arrangements. Some sat in piles. Others were leaning vertically against trees with their caskets exposed. People walked amongst the ruined graveyards, scrawling their names and phone numbers on the tombs of their deceased kin. Houses were lifted up and deposited on the crest of the twenty five foot levee that ran along the Mississippi River. Every little thing in sight was waterlogged and broken. The air was heavy and stank of rot, insinuating the number of dead animals deep in the surrounding woods.
From Braithwaite, the storm continued west. LaPlace is a community on the opposite side of Lake Pontchartrain. It’s a vast horizon of parking lots and low-rent strip malls. Subdivisions blossom out across the hollowed bottomlands like nebulous dust. Following the initial surge that took out Braithwaite, Isaac entered Lake Pontchartrain and gathered a second surge, building strength and racing towards Laplace.
Though the survivors have moved on and memories have faded, there exists a rather dramatic precedent for Isaac’s path.
In 1915, a hurricane came out of the West Indies. It hit the coast with force, spared New Orleans, and cut a line across Lake Pontchartrain, building a surge as it bore toward the west side of the lake. It exploded onto the cypress shores with indescribable fury, annihilating the small German settlements of Frenier and LaBranche. All the homes were blasted and strewn across the lake. Many of the villagers died. A few were able to survive by taking refuge in a stalled boxcar even as the train trestle it rested on began to disintegrate.
Today, Frenier is a sparsely settled fishing outpost and LaBranche is a cypress swamp that hasn’t seen any residential development since that tragic storm. But things could have been different. In the 1970s, during a rapid stage of St. Charles Parish’s industrial growth, land speculators were pushing hard to turn LaBranche into the diffuse exurban landscape that the nearby town of LaPlace is today. Speculators were buying up huge tracts of land all across the swamp. These investors believed that the Army Corps of Engineers would build a hurricane protection levee along the shore of the lake, thus making their properties eligible for federally subsidized flood insurance. Wetland preservation policies forced the Army Corps to reroute the levee, which now runs roughly parallel with Airline Highway and less than a quarter of a mile to its north, making development of the LaBranche Wetlands financially infeasible.
The day following Hurricane Isaac, Breonne and I visited the Wetland Watcher’s Park, near the site where the extinct town of LaBranche once stood. The park benches, anchored in cement, were ripped up from the ground and strewn about. Boardwalks that previously traversed the cypress swamps had completely collapsed into the water. Mud and sediment carried by the storm surge clung to every surface. The storm’s strength and intensity were evident, but since the area has remained mostly undeveloped since 1915, we witnessed little destruction. I imagined if LaBranche was the enormous lakefront suburb that many had hoped it would become; if rather than upturned benches and felled cypress trees, there existed the dream homes of Lakeland Gardens, or the office complexes of the LaBranche Industrial Park. The concrete slabs of these developments would have rested on the literal bones of the extinct village of LaBranche. Would it have met the same fate? Would Isaac have overwhelmed the neighborhood’s flood protection levee like Katrina did to the Lower Ninth Ward? Would the pumping system have failed, as has happened countless times in communities across south Louisiana?
From LaBranche, we continued on to LaPlace, where those notional scenes of suburban devastation became reality. Standing water covered the streets. Home-interior detritus lined every curb, some of it stacked eight feet high. We were unable to see the most extensive devastation because the streets were too flooded to continue. Red Cross emergency relief shelters along Airline Highway were packed. Hundreds of households were destroyed. Millions of dollars in damage had been wrought.
Nearly a century divides the West Indian Hurricane of 1915 from the storm that devastated Braithwaite and LaPlace on August 29th of 2012. The parallels between these two storms are a large component of our research into the cycles of creation and destruction that occur socially, economically, and environmentally in south Louisiana. Highways, storm drains, oil pipelines, floods, flames, and the decline of the late American suburb are all netting in the tangled web that marries these two storms. Our research continues forward, but we wanted to use this anniversary as an opportunity to share where we’re at so far.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Guide Notes:
See longtime St. John Parish resident Donald Tregre as he tells stories from the West Indian Hurricane (1915) and Hurricane Isaac (2012) in THE WEST INDIAN HURRICANE OF 1915 
Map: 1970’s Speculative Land Developments in the LaBranche Wetlands
* * *
Louisiana Guide Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Louisiana Guide Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
HURRICANE ISAAC, ONE YEAR LATER - LOUISIANA
A year ago today, Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans. The city was largely spared. Power outages darkened the streets, but when day broke, it revealed little flooding, and no damage from the storm surge. At the far reaches of the metropolitan area, in decaying exurbs and working-poor agricultural communities, the storm was far less merciful.
On the east side of Plaquemines Parish, which sits wide open before the Gulf of Mexico, the surge came down like a chop saw. A wall of water tore apart the town of Braithwaite. It ripped tombs from the cemetery and spread them miles around. They were flipped and tumbled into all sorts of odd arrangements. Some sat in piles. Others were leaning vertically against trees with their caskets exposed. People walked amongst the ruined graveyards, scrawling their names and phone numbers on the tombs of their deceased kin. Houses were lifted up and deposited on the crest of the twenty five foot levee that ran along the Mississippi River. Every little thing in sight was waterlogged and broken. The air was heavy and stank of rot, insinuating the number of dead animals deep in the surrounding woods.
From Braithwaite, the storm continued west. LaPlace is a community on the opposite side of Lake Pontchartrain. It’s a vast horizon of parking lots and low-rent strip malls. Subdivisions blossom out across the hollowed bottomlands like nebulous dust. Following the initial surge that took out Braithwaite, Isaac entered Lake Pontchartrain and gathered a second surge, building strength and racing towards Laplace.
Though the survivors have moved on and memories have faded, there exists a rather dramatic precedent for Isaac’s path.
In 1915, a hurricane came out of the West Indies. It hit the coast with force, spared New Orleans, and cut a line across Lake Pontchartrain, building a surge as it bore toward the west side of the lake. It exploded onto the cypress shores with indescribable fury, annihilating the small German settlements of Frenier and LaBranche. All the homes were blasted and strewn across the lake. Many of the villagers died. A few were able to survive by taking refuge in a stalled boxcar even as the train trestle it rested on began to disintegrate.
Today, Frenier is a sparsely settled fishing outpost and LaBranche is a cypress swamp that hasn’t seen any residential development since that tragic storm. But things could have been different. In the 1970s, during a rapid stage of St. Charles Parish’s industrial growth, land speculators were pushing hard to turn LaBranche into the diffuse exurban landscape that the nearby town of LaPlace is today. Speculators were buying up huge tracts of land all across the swamp. These investors believed that the Army Corps of Engineers would build a hurricane protection levee along the shore of the lake, thus making their properties eligible for federally subsidized flood insurance. Wetland preservation policies forced the Army Corps to reroute the levee, which now runs roughly parallel with Airline Highway and less than a quarter of a mile to its north, making development of the LaBranche Wetlands financially infeasible.
The day following Hurricane Isaac, Breonne and I visited the Wetland Watcher’s Park, near the site where the extinct town of LaBranche once stood. The park benches, anchored in cement, were ripped up from the ground and strewn about. Boardwalks that previously traversed the cypress swamps had completely collapsed into the water. Mud and sediment carried by the storm surge clung to every surface. The storm’s strength and intensity were evident, but since the area has remained mostly undeveloped since 1915, we witnessed little destruction. I imagined if LaBranche was the enormous lakefront suburb that many had hoped it would become; if rather than upturned benches and felled cypress trees, there existed the dream homes of Lakeland Gardens, or the office complexes of the LaBranche Industrial Park. The concrete slabs of these developments would have rested on the literal bones of the extinct village of LaBranche. Would it have met the same fate? Would Isaac have overwhelmed the neighborhood’s flood protection levee like Katrina did to the Lower Ninth Ward? Would the pumping system have failed, as has happened countless times in communities across south Louisiana?
From LaBranche, we continued on to LaPlace, where those notional scenes of suburban devastation became reality. Standing water covered the streets. Home-interior detritus lined every curb, some of it stacked eight feet high. We were unable to see the most extensive devastation because the streets were too flooded to continue. Red Cross emergency relief shelters along Airline Highway were packed. Hundreds of households were destroyed. Millions of dollars in damage had been wrought.
Nearly a century divides the West Indian Hurricane of 1915 from the storm that devastated Braithwaite and LaPlace on August 29th of 2012. The parallels between these two storms are a large component of our research into the cycles of creation and destruction that occur socially, economically, and environmentally in south Louisiana. Highways, storm drains, oil pipelines, floods, flames, and the decline of the late American suburb are all netting in the tangled web that marries these two storms. Our research continues forward, but we wanted to use this anniversary as an opportunity to share where we’re at so far.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Guide Notes:
See longtime St. John Parish resident Donald Tregre as he tells stories from the West Indian Hurricane (1915) and Hurricane Isaac (2012) in THE WEST INDIAN HURRICANE OF 1915 
Map: 1970’s Speculative Land Developments in the LaBranche Wetlands
* * *
Louisiana Guide Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Louisiana Guide Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
HURRICANE ISAAC, ONE YEAR LATER - LOUISIANA
A year ago today, Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans. The city was largely spared. Power outages darkened the streets, but when day broke, it revealed little flooding, and no damage from the storm surge. At the far reaches of the metropolitan area, in decaying exurbs and working-poor agricultural communities, the storm was far less merciful.
On the east side of Plaquemines Parish, which sits wide open before the Gulf of Mexico, the surge came down like a chop saw. A wall of water tore apart the town of Braithwaite. It ripped tombs from the cemetery and spread them miles around. They were flipped and tumbled into all sorts of odd arrangements. Some sat in piles. Others were leaning vertically against trees with their caskets exposed. People walked amongst the ruined graveyards, scrawling their names and phone numbers on the tombs of their deceased kin. Houses were lifted up and deposited on the crest of the twenty five foot levee that ran along the Mississippi River. Every little thing in sight was waterlogged and broken. The air was heavy and stank of rot, insinuating the number of dead animals deep in the surrounding woods.
From Braithwaite, the storm continued west. LaPlace is a community on the opposite side of Lake Pontchartrain. It’s a vast horizon of parking lots and low-rent strip malls. Subdivisions blossom out across the hollowed bottomlands like nebulous dust. Following the initial surge that took out Braithwaite, Isaac entered Lake Pontchartrain and gathered a second surge, building strength and racing towards Laplace.
Though the survivors have moved on and memories have faded, there exists a rather dramatic precedent for Isaac’s path.
In 1915, a hurricane came out of the West Indies. It hit the coast with force, spared New Orleans, and cut a line across Lake Pontchartrain, building a surge as it bore toward the west side of the lake. It exploded onto the cypress shores with indescribable fury, annihilating the small German settlements of Frenier and LaBranche. All the homes were blasted and strewn across the lake. Many of the villagers died. A few were able to survive by taking refuge in a stalled boxcar even as the train trestle it rested on began to disintegrate.
Today, Frenier is a sparsely settled fishing outpost and LaBranche is a cypress swamp that hasn’t seen any residential development since that tragic storm. But things could have been different. In the 1970s, during a rapid stage of St. Charles Parish’s industrial growth, land speculators were pushing hard to turn LaBranche into the diffuse exurban landscape that the nearby town of LaPlace is today. Speculators were buying up huge tracts of land all across the swamp. These investors believed that the Army Corps of Engineers would build a hurricane protection levee along the shore of the lake, thus making their properties eligible for federally subsidized flood insurance. Wetland preservation policies forced the Army Corps to reroute the levee, which now runs roughly parallel with Airline Highway and less than a quarter of a mile to its north, making development of the LaBranche Wetlands financially infeasible.
The day following Hurricane Isaac, Breonne and I visited the Wetland Watcher’s Park, near the site where the extinct town of LaBranche once stood. The park benches, anchored in cement, were ripped up from the ground and strewn about. Boardwalks that previously traversed the cypress swamps had completely collapsed into the water. Mud and sediment carried by the storm surge clung to every surface. The storm’s strength and intensity were evident, but since the area has remained mostly undeveloped since 1915, we witnessed little destruction. I imagined if LaBranche was the enormous lakefront suburb that many had hoped it would become; if rather than upturned benches and felled cypress trees, there existed the dream homes of Lakeland Gardens, or the office complexes of the LaBranche Industrial Park. The concrete slabs of these developments would have rested on the literal bones of the extinct village of LaBranche. Would it have met the same fate? Would Isaac have overwhelmed the neighborhood’s flood protection levee like Katrina did to the Lower Ninth Ward? Would the pumping system have failed, as has happened countless times in communities across south Louisiana?
From LaBranche, we continued on to LaPlace, where those notional scenes of suburban devastation became reality. Standing water covered the streets. Home-interior detritus lined every curb, some of it stacked eight feet high. We were unable to see the most extensive devastation because the streets were too flooded to continue. Red Cross emergency relief shelters along Airline Highway were packed. Hundreds of households were destroyed. Millions of dollars in damage had been wrought.
Nearly a century divides the West Indian Hurricane of 1915 from the storm that devastated Braithwaite and LaPlace on August 29th of 2012. The parallels between these two storms are a large component of our research into the cycles of creation and destruction that occur socially, economically, and environmentally in south Louisiana. Highways, storm drains, oil pipelines, floods, flames, and the decline of the late American suburb are all netting in the tangled web that marries these two storms. Our research continues forward, but we wanted to use this anniversary as an opportunity to share where we’re at so far.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Guide Notes:
See longtime St. John Parish resident Donald Tregre as he tells stories from the West Indian Hurricane (1915) and Hurricane Isaac (2012) in THE WEST INDIAN HURRICANE OF 1915 
Map: 1970’s Speculative Land Developments in the LaBranche Wetlands
* * *
Louisiana Guide Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Louisiana Guide Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
HURRICANE ISAAC, ONE YEAR LATER - LOUISIANA
A year ago today, Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans. The city was largely spared. Power outages darkened the streets, but when day broke, it revealed little flooding, and no damage from the storm surge. At the far reaches of the metropolitan area, in decaying exurbs and working-poor agricultural communities, the storm was far less merciful.
On the east side of Plaquemines Parish, which sits wide open before the Gulf of Mexico, the surge came down like a chop saw. A wall of water tore apart the town of Braithwaite. It ripped tombs from the cemetery and spread them miles around. They were flipped and tumbled into all sorts of odd arrangements. Some sat in piles. Others were leaning vertically against trees with their caskets exposed. People walked amongst the ruined graveyards, scrawling their names and phone numbers on the tombs of their deceased kin. Houses were lifted up and deposited on the crest of the twenty five foot levee that ran along the Mississippi River. Every little thing in sight was waterlogged and broken. The air was heavy and stank of rot, insinuating the number of dead animals deep in the surrounding woods.
From Braithwaite, the storm continued west. LaPlace is a community on the opposite side of Lake Pontchartrain. It’s a vast horizon of parking lots and low-rent strip malls. Subdivisions blossom out across the hollowed bottomlands like nebulous dust. Following the initial surge that took out Braithwaite, Isaac entered Lake Pontchartrain and gathered a second surge, building strength and racing towards Laplace.
Though the survivors have moved on and memories have faded, there exists a rather dramatic precedent for Isaac’s path.
In 1915, a hurricane came out of the West Indies. It hit the coast with force, spared New Orleans, and cut a line across Lake Pontchartrain, building a surge as it bore toward the west side of the lake. It exploded onto the cypress shores with indescribable fury, annihilating the small German settlements of Frenier and LaBranche. All the homes were blasted and strewn across the lake. Many of the villagers died. A few were able to survive by taking refuge in a stalled boxcar even as the train trestle it rested on began to disintegrate.
Today, Frenier is a sparsely settled fishing outpost and LaBranche is a cypress swamp that hasn’t seen any residential development since that tragic storm. But things could have been different. In the 1970s, during a rapid stage of St. Charles Parish’s industrial growth, land speculators were pushing hard to turn LaBranche into the diffuse exurban landscape that the nearby town of LaPlace is today. Speculators were buying up huge tracts of land all across the swamp. These investors believed that the Army Corps of Engineers would build a hurricane protection levee along the shore of the lake, thus making their properties eligible for federally subsidized flood insurance. Wetland preservation policies forced the Army Corps to reroute the levee, which now runs roughly parallel with Airline Highway and less than a quarter of a mile to its north, making development of the LaBranche Wetlands financially infeasible.
The day following Hurricane Isaac, Breonne and I visited the Wetland Watcher’s Park, near the site where the extinct town of LaBranche once stood. The park benches, anchored in cement, were ripped up from the ground and strewn about. Boardwalks that previously traversed the cypress swamps had completely collapsed into the water. Mud and sediment carried by the storm surge clung to every surface. The storm’s strength and intensity were evident, but since the area has remained mostly undeveloped since 1915, we witnessed little destruction. I imagined if LaBranche was the enormous lakefront suburb that many had hoped it would become; if rather than upturned benches and felled cypress trees, there existed the dream homes of Lakeland Gardens, or the office complexes of the LaBranche Industrial Park. The concrete slabs of these developments would have rested on the literal bones of the extinct village of LaBranche. Would it have met the same fate? Would Isaac have overwhelmed the neighborhood’s flood protection levee like Katrina did to the Lower Ninth Ward? Would the pumping system have failed, as has happened countless times in communities across south Louisiana?
From LaBranche, we continued on to LaPlace, where those notional scenes of suburban devastation became reality. Standing water covered the streets. Home-interior detritus lined every curb, some of it stacked eight feet high. We were unable to see the most extensive devastation because the streets were too flooded to continue. Red Cross emergency relief shelters along Airline Highway were packed. Hundreds of households were destroyed. Millions of dollars in damage had been wrought.
Nearly a century divides the West Indian Hurricane of 1915 from the storm that devastated Braithwaite and LaPlace on August 29th of 2012. The parallels between these two storms are a large component of our research into the cycles of creation and destruction that occur socially, economically, and environmentally in south Louisiana. Highways, storm drains, oil pipelines, floods, flames, and the decline of the late American suburb are all netting in the tangled web that marries these two storms. Our research continues forward, but we wanted to use this anniversary as an opportunity to share where we’re at so far.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Guide Notes:
See longtime St. John Parish resident Donald Tregre as he tells stories from the West Indian Hurricane (1915) and Hurricane Isaac (2012) in THE WEST INDIAN HURRICANE OF 1915 
Map: 1970’s Speculative Land Developments in the LaBranche Wetlands
* * *
Louisiana Guide Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Louisiana Guide Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info

HURRICANE ISAAC, ONE YEAR LATER - LOUISIANA

A year ago today, Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans. The city was largely spared. Power outages darkened the streets, but when day broke, it revealed little flooding, and no damage from the storm surge. At the far reaches of the metropolitan area, in decaying exurbs and working-poor agricultural communities, the storm was far less merciful.

On the east side of Plaquemines Parish, which sits wide open before the Gulf of Mexico, the surge came down like a chop saw. A wall of water tore apart the town of Braithwaite. It ripped tombs from the cemetery and spread them miles around. They were flipped and tumbled into all sorts of odd arrangements. Some sat in piles. Others were leaning vertically against trees with their caskets exposed. People walked amongst the ruined graveyards, scrawling their names and phone numbers on the tombs of their deceased kin. Houses were lifted up and deposited on the crest of the twenty five foot levee that ran along the Mississippi River. Every little thing in sight was waterlogged and broken. The air was heavy and stank of rot, insinuating the number of dead animals deep in the surrounding woods.

From Braithwaite, the storm continued west. LaPlace is a community on the opposite side of Lake Pontchartrain. It’s a vast horizon of parking lots and low-rent strip malls. Subdivisions blossom out across the hollowed bottomlands like nebulous dust. Following the initial surge that took out Braithwaite, Isaac entered Lake Pontchartrain and gathered a second surge, building strength and racing towards Laplace.

Though the survivors have moved on and memories have faded, there exists a rather dramatic precedent for Isaac’s path.

In 1915, a hurricane came out of the West Indies. It hit the coast with force, spared New Orleans, and cut a line across Lake Pontchartrain, building a surge as it bore toward the west side of the lake. It exploded onto the cypress shores with indescribable fury, annihilating the small German settlements of Frenier and LaBranche. All the homes were blasted and strewn across the lake. Many of the villagers died. A few were able to survive by taking refuge in a stalled boxcar even as the train trestle it rested on began to disintegrate.

Today, Frenier is a sparsely settled fishing outpost and LaBranche is a cypress swamp that hasn’t seen any residential development since that tragic storm. But things could have been different. In the 1970s, during a rapid stage of St. Charles Parish’s industrial growth, land speculators were pushing hard to turn LaBranche into the diffuse exurban landscape that the nearby town of LaPlace is today. Speculators were buying up huge tracts of land all across the swamp. These investors believed that the Army Corps of Engineers would build a hurricane protection levee along the shore of the lake, thus making their properties eligible for federally subsidized flood insurance. Wetland preservation policies forced the Army Corps to reroute the levee, which now runs roughly parallel with Airline Highway and less than a quarter of a mile to its north, making development of the LaBranche Wetlands financially infeasible.

The day following Hurricane Isaac, Breonne and I visited the Wetland Watcher’s Park, near the site where the extinct town of LaBranche once stood. The park benches, anchored in cement, were ripped up from the ground and strewn about. Boardwalks that previously traversed the cypress swamps had completely collapsed into the water. Mud and sediment carried by the storm surge clung to every surface. The storm’s strength and intensity were evident, but since the area has remained mostly undeveloped since 1915, we witnessed little destruction. I imagined if LaBranche was the enormous lakefront suburb that many had hoped it would become; if rather than upturned benches and felled cypress trees, there existed the dream homes of Lakeland Gardens, or the office complexes of the LaBranche Industrial Park. The concrete slabs of these developments would have rested on the literal bones of the extinct village of LaBranche. Would it have met the same fate? Would Isaac have overwhelmed the neighborhood’s flood protection levee like Katrina did to the Lower Ninth Ward? Would the pumping system have failed, as has happened countless times in communities across south Louisiana?

From LaBranche, we continued on to LaPlace, where those notional scenes of suburban devastation became reality. Standing water covered the streets. Home-interior detritus lined every curb, some of it stacked eight feet high. We were unable to see the most extensive devastation because the streets were too flooded to continue. Red Cross emergency relief shelters along Airline Highway were packed. Hundreds of households were destroyed. Millions of dollars in damage had been wrought.

Nearly a century divides the West Indian Hurricane of 1915 from the storm that devastated Braithwaite and LaPlace on August 29th of 2012. The parallels between these two storms are a large component of our research into the cycles of creation and destruction that occur socially, economically, and environmentally in south Louisiana. Highways, storm drains, oil pipelines, floods, flames, and the decline of the late American suburb are all netting in the tangled web that marries these two storms. Our research continues forward, but we wanted to use this anniversary as an opportunity to share where we’re at so far.

Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker

Guide Notes:

* * *

Louisiana Guide Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Louisiana Guide Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.

THE WEST INDIAN HURRICANE OF 1915 - LOUISIANA

Longtime St. John Parish resident Donald Tregre tells stories from the West Indian Hurricane (1915) and Hurricane Isaac (2012). Most footage was filmed in the parishes of St. John, St. Charles, and Plaquemines at or near the time of Hurricane Isaac, which made landfall just southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River one year ago today.

* * *

Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.

SAINT CLAUDE DISTRICT - NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

[New Orleans] has always been a place where life and art have been unusually interwoven, but only in relatively recent times has its visual arts community become a hotbed of experimentation as the historically seedy thoroughfare that is St. Claude Avenue—and the colorful neighborhoods it traverses just past the French Quarter—have become home to a fertile if low profile community known as the St. Claude Arts District. Made up of dozens of galleries, pop-up art spaces, studios, theaters, clubs and multi-use venues that blend in with their surroundings and are mostly operated on a collaborative or co-op basis, it’s a place where creative expression and experimentation seem to exist almost for their own sake. …

Dating to the earliest years of the 19th century, the neighborhoods that comprise the St. Claude district were historically mostly working class enclaves punctuated with occasional grand mansions as well as often ornate churches that catered to their diverse French, Creole, German, Sicilian and Irish ethnicities. Like old port-related enclaves elsewhere in the world, their tone was international and industrious, yet there was always a pronounced whimsical streak that dated back to the area’s founder, a flamboyant planter named Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville who, over two centuries ago, began selling off parcels of land to cover his gambling debts. St. Claude’s iconic mix of whimsy and grit was eventually immortalized by artists and writers including Tennessee Williams, whose legendary play, Streetcar Named Desire, was set in the area. 

—Excerpt from “The St. Claude Avenue Arts District: A Brief History,”Saint Claude Index (Constance, 2013)

READ MORE

Downtown New Orleans has become a hub for contemporary art in the South. The proliferation of galleries—many of them collectively run by artists who live nearby—has injected a new element into the neighborhoods along St. Claude Avenue. The area has attracted scores of transplants in recent years who have increased the diversity of its cultural life, creating a lively amalgam of tradition and development that will excite and interest any discerning visitor to the city. 

Words - D. Eric Bookhardt; Images - Sophie T. Lvoff; Map - Erik Kiesewetter / Constance; Guide Author - Nathan C. Martin

Guide note: We love guidebooks produced by folks who know and love a place and The Saint Claude Index is just that. It’s a soon-to-be-available guide to the arts and culture of downtown New Orleans, produced by Constance, a local publishing, design and event organization that was created to nurture New Orleans’s arts community. You’ll find The Saint Claude Index around New Orleans after August 28th. For those outside of the Big Easy, it can be requested from the Arts/Cultural arm of the New Orleans Tourism Board.

* * *

D. Eric Bookhardt is the art critic for New Orleans’ weekly newspaper,Gambit, as well as the New Orleans Art Insider website, and is a longtime contributing editor of the contemporary art magazine, Art Papers.

Erik Kiesewetter is an independent multi-disciplinary designer primarily focused on publication, identity, and digital design. He studied graphic design at University of Louisiana in Lafayette and founded Constance in 2005 to support the arts community of New Orleans by providing design and programming services. Find his work on Constance or visit the community-run Constance Arts Blog.

Sophie T. Lvoff is a photographer living and working in New Orleans. She was born in New York and grew up in the Northeast but was always trying to move to the South, until one day she picked New Orleans and moved without having been there before. You can see more of her work on her website.

NORCO, LOUISIANA
Shell Oil erected their catalytic cracking unit in the early 1950s during a multimillion dollar expansion boom. The unit itself was 16 stories high, a “colossus of the petroleum industry” as described by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The new machinery grew outwards and upwards from the old tiers of the refinery, consuming 3,178 tons of structural steel, 27,500 cubic yards of concrete, 8,000 valves of all shapes and sizes, and thousands of pilings driven deep into the deltaic mud. By 1955, the enormous expansion was complete. The small river town of Norco, Louisiana now had an industrial skyline, and the cat cracker was its most impressive spire.
As decades passed, however, the unit became just more steel in the bizarre landscape of the town. It was a single component in a system of petrochemical production that was growing ever more complex. More variables, more hazards. A new chemical agent was introduced to the daily production process of the machine, but the corrosive properties of the agent weren’t adequately tested. Over the course of six months, it began to wear away a pipe elbow deep inside the machine. The corrosion formed a hole, and through the hole, hydrocarbons poured into a confined chamber of the unit. It created a dense, combustible ball of gas; and on the predawn morning of May 5th, 1988, within the chamber something sparked.
The shockwave blossomed out in a 30 mile radius, shattering windows across the region. Some Norco residents describe being catapulted entirely from their beds, hitting the ground along with the glass and debris. Doors blew completely off their hinges. Ceilings collapsed. Large shards of window panes shot like daggers across rooms and penetrated sheetrock. The neighborhood dollar store crumbled to its foundation, along with the cinderblock wall of the hardware store. The east wall of the grocery store littered the expanse of the adjacent parking lot. The flames raged on for hours at the explosion site, hampering rescue efforts, and casting a catastrophic glow across the town’s wreckage.
I was two years old when the explosion happened. My family’s home was five blocks from the industrial fence line, and less than half a mile from the catalytic cracking unit. My bed was situated beneath a window that faced east. The blast shattered all the window panes, and the broken glass rained down onto me. My parents entered in a panic. The room was dim and pulsing red from the refinery light. They discovered me sound asleep, covered in glass, and were convinced that I was dead. My father gingerly picked the glass off me and breathed a sigh of relief as I began to squirm. He led my family through the lights and sirens of the evacuation zone to my grandmother’s house 10 miles up Airline Highway. We stayed there for several days, but my father returned to our house to assess the damage. It was relatively minor, only broken windows—a ubiquitous mark of destruction across the town. But upon his return and for many months following, he felt haunted and uneasy in our home.
All told, there were seven casualties, all of them Shell employees who were onsite at the time. With the flames raging and the debris piled high, their remains were difficult to recover. Search teams wearing protective clothing and oxygen tanks scoured the disaster site. FBI agents visited Norco in the days following to assist in the forensics investigation as they pulled bodies from the charred rubble and twisted steel.
The intensity of the blast was 1/20th the size of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima. If it occurred in the middle of the day, one could imagine customers dead in the dollar store, crushed where the ceiling met the floor; concussed in parking lots; or laid out in the aisles of the hardware store. There would have certainly been more workers moving about Shell’s premises, more people walking through their homes. But thankfully, the town slept through the blast.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Archive: The Times-Picayune
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
NORCO, LOUISIANA
Shell Oil erected their catalytic cracking unit in the early 1950s during a multimillion dollar expansion boom. The unit itself was 16 stories high, a “colossus of the petroleum industry” as described by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The new machinery grew outwards and upwards from the old tiers of the refinery, consuming 3,178 tons of structural steel, 27,500 cubic yards of concrete, 8,000 valves of all shapes and sizes, and thousands of pilings driven deep into the deltaic mud. By 1955, the enormous expansion was complete. The small river town of Norco, Louisiana now had an industrial skyline, and the cat cracker was its most impressive spire.
As decades passed, however, the unit became just more steel in the bizarre landscape of the town. It was a single component in a system of petrochemical production that was growing ever more complex. More variables, more hazards. A new chemical agent was introduced to the daily production process of the machine, but the corrosive properties of the agent weren’t adequately tested. Over the course of six months, it began to wear away a pipe elbow deep inside the machine. The corrosion formed a hole, and through the hole, hydrocarbons poured into a confined chamber of the unit. It created a dense, combustible ball of gas; and on the predawn morning of May 5th, 1988, within the chamber something sparked.
The shockwave blossomed out in a 30 mile radius, shattering windows across the region. Some Norco residents describe being catapulted entirely from their beds, hitting the ground along with the glass and debris. Doors blew completely off their hinges. Ceilings collapsed. Large shards of window panes shot like daggers across rooms and penetrated sheetrock. The neighborhood dollar store crumbled to its foundation, along with the cinderblock wall of the hardware store. The east wall of the grocery store littered the expanse of the adjacent parking lot. The flames raged on for hours at the explosion site, hampering rescue efforts, and casting a catastrophic glow across the town’s wreckage.
I was two years old when the explosion happened. My family’s home was five blocks from the industrial fence line, and less than half a mile from the catalytic cracking unit. My bed was situated beneath a window that faced east. The blast shattered all the window panes, and the broken glass rained down onto me. My parents entered in a panic. The room was dim and pulsing red from the refinery light. They discovered me sound asleep, covered in glass, and were convinced that I was dead. My father gingerly picked the glass off me and breathed a sigh of relief as I began to squirm. He led my family through the lights and sirens of the evacuation zone to my grandmother’s house 10 miles up Airline Highway. We stayed there for several days, but my father returned to our house to assess the damage. It was relatively minor, only broken windows—a ubiquitous mark of destruction across the town. But upon his return and for many months following, he felt haunted and uneasy in our home.
All told, there were seven casualties, all of them Shell employees who were onsite at the time. With the flames raging and the debris piled high, their remains were difficult to recover. Search teams wearing protective clothing and oxygen tanks scoured the disaster site. FBI agents visited Norco in the days following to assist in the forensics investigation as they pulled bodies from the charred rubble and twisted steel.
The intensity of the blast was 1/20th the size of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima. If it occurred in the middle of the day, one could imagine customers dead in the dollar store, crushed where the ceiling met the floor; concussed in parking lots; or laid out in the aisles of the hardware store. There would have certainly been more workers moving about Shell’s premises, more people walking through their homes. But thankfully, the town slept through the blast.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Archive: The Times-Picayune
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
NORCO, LOUISIANA
Shell Oil erected their catalytic cracking unit in the early 1950s during a multimillion dollar expansion boom. The unit itself was 16 stories high, a “colossus of the petroleum industry” as described by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The new machinery grew outwards and upwards from the old tiers of the refinery, consuming 3,178 tons of structural steel, 27,500 cubic yards of concrete, 8,000 valves of all shapes and sizes, and thousands of pilings driven deep into the deltaic mud. By 1955, the enormous expansion was complete. The small river town of Norco, Louisiana now had an industrial skyline, and the cat cracker was its most impressive spire.
As decades passed, however, the unit became just more steel in the bizarre landscape of the town. It was a single component in a system of petrochemical production that was growing ever more complex. More variables, more hazards. A new chemical agent was introduced to the daily production process of the machine, but the corrosive properties of the agent weren’t adequately tested. Over the course of six months, it began to wear away a pipe elbow deep inside the machine. The corrosion formed a hole, and through the hole, hydrocarbons poured into a confined chamber of the unit. It created a dense, combustible ball of gas; and on the predawn morning of May 5th, 1988, within the chamber something sparked.
The shockwave blossomed out in a 30 mile radius, shattering windows across the region. Some Norco residents describe being catapulted entirely from their beds, hitting the ground along with the glass and debris. Doors blew completely off their hinges. Ceilings collapsed. Large shards of window panes shot like daggers across rooms and penetrated sheetrock. The neighborhood dollar store crumbled to its foundation, along with the cinderblock wall of the hardware store. The east wall of the grocery store littered the expanse of the adjacent parking lot. The flames raged on for hours at the explosion site, hampering rescue efforts, and casting a catastrophic glow across the town’s wreckage.
I was two years old when the explosion happened. My family’s home was five blocks from the industrial fence line, and less than half a mile from the catalytic cracking unit. My bed was situated beneath a window that faced east. The blast shattered all the window panes, and the broken glass rained down onto me. My parents entered in a panic. The room was dim and pulsing red from the refinery light. They discovered me sound asleep, covered in glass, and were convinced that I was dead. My father gingerly picked the glass off me and breathed a sigh of relief as I began to squirm. He led my family through the lights and sirens of the evacuation zone to my grandmother’s house 10 miles up Airline Highway. We stayed there for several days, but my father returned to our house to assess the damage. It was relatively minor, only broken windows—a ubiquitous mark of destruction across the town. But upon his return and for many months following, he felt haunted and uneasy in our home.
All told, there were seven casualties, all of them Shell employees who were onsite at the time. With the flames raging and the debris piled high, their remains were difficult to recover. Search teams wearing protective clothing and oxygen tanks scoured the disaster site. FBI agents visited Norco in the days following to assist in the forensics investigation as they pulled bodies from the charred rubble and twisted steel.
The intensity of the blast was 1/20th the size of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima. If it occurred in the middle of the day, one could imagine customers dead in the dollar store, crushed where the ceiling met the floor; concussed in parking lots; or laid out in the aisles of the hardware store. There would have certainly been more workers moving about Shell’s premises, more people walking through their homes. But thankfully, the town slept through the blast.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Archive: The Times-Picayune
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
NORCO, LOUISIANA
Shell Oil erected their catalytic cracking unit in the early 1950s during a multimillion dollar expansion boom. The unit itself was 16 stories high, a “colossus of the petroleum industry” as described by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The new machinery grew outwards and upwards from the old tiers of the refinery, consuming 3,178 tons of structural steel, 27,500 cubic yards of concrete, 8,000 valves of all shapes and sizes, and thousands of pilings driven deep into the deltaic mud. By 1955, the enormous expansion was complete. The small river town of Norco, Louisiana now had an industrial skyline, and the cat cracker was its most impressive spire.
As decades passed, however, the unit became just more steel in the bizarre landscape of the town. It was a single component in a system of petrochemical production that was growing ever more complex. More variables, more hazards. A new chemical agent was introduced to the daily production process of the machine, but the corrosive properties of the agent weren’t adequately tested. Over the course of six months, it began to wear away a pipe elbow deep inside the machine. The corrosion formed a hole, and through the hole, hydrocarbons poured into a confined chamber of the unit. It created a dense, combustible ball of gas; and on the predawn morning of May 5th, 1988, within the chamber something sparked.
The shockwave blossomed out in a 30 mile radius, shattering windows across the region. Some Norco residents describe being catapulted entirely from their beds, hitting the ground along with the glass and debris. Doors blew completely off their hinges. Ceilings collapsed. Large shards of window panes shot like daggers across rooms and penetrated sheetrock. The neighborhood dollar store crumbled to its foundation, along with the cinderblock wall of the hardware store. The east wall of the grocery store littered the expanse of the adjacent parking lot. The flames raged on for hours at the explosion site, hampering rescue efforts, and casting a catastrophic glow across the town’s wreckage.
I was two years old when the explosion happened. My family’s home was five blocks from the industrial fence line, and less than half a mile from the catalytic cracking unit. My bed was situated beneath a window that faced east. The blast shattered all the window panes, and the broken glass rained down onto me. My parents entered in a panic. The room was dim and pulsing red from the refinery light. They discovered me sound asleep, covered in glass, and were convinced that I was dead. My father gingerly picked the glass off me and breathed a sigh of relief as I began to squirm. He led my family through the lights and sirens of the evacuation zone to my grandmother’s house 10 miles up Airline Highway. We stayed there for several days, but my father returned to our house to assess the damage. It was relatively minor, only broken windows—a ubiquitous mark of destruction across the town. But upon his return and for many months following, he felt haunted and uneasy in our home.
All told, there were seven casualties, all of them Shell employees who were onsite at the time. With the flames raging and the debris piled high, their remains were difficult to recover. Search teams wearing protective clothing and oxygen tanks scoured the disaster site. FBI agents visited Norco in the days following to assist in the forensics investigation as they pulled bodies from the charred rubble and twisted steel.
The intensity of the blast was 1/20th the size of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima. If it occurred in the middle of the day, one could imagine customers dead in the dollar store, crushed where the ceiling met the floor; concussed in parking lots; or laid out in the aisles of the hardware store. There would have certainly been more workers moving about Shell’s premises, more people walking through their homes. But thankfully, the town slept through the blast.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Archive: The Times-Picayune
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
NORCO, LOUISIANA
Shell Oil erected their catalytic cracking unit in the early 1950s during a multimillion dollar expansion boom. The unit itself was 16 stories high, a “colossus of the petroleum industry” as described by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The new machinery grew outwards and upwards from the old tiers of the refinery, consuming 3,178 tons of structural steel, 27,500 cubic yards of concrete, 8,000 valves of all shapes and sizes, and thousands of pilings driven deep into the deltaic mud. By 1955, the enormous expansion was complete. The small river town of Norco, Louisiana now had an industrial skyline, and the cat cracker was its most impressive spire.
As decades passed, however, the unit became just more steel in the bizarre landscape of the town. It was a single component in a system of petrochemical production that was growing ever more complex. More variables, more hazards. A new chemical agent was introduced to the daily production process of the machine, but the corrosive properties of the agent weren’t adequately tested. Over the course of six months, it began to wear away a pipe elbow deep inside the machine. The corrosion formed a hole, and through the hole, hydrocarbons poured into a confined chamber of the unit. It created a dense, combustible ball of gas; and on the predawn morning of May 5th, 1988, within the chamber something sparked.
The shockwave blossomed out in a 30 mile radius, shattering windows across the region. Some Norco residents describe being catapulted entirely from their beds, hitting the ground along with the glass and debris. Doors blew completely off their hinges. Ceilings collapsed. Large shards of window panes shot like daggers across rooms and penetrated sheetrock. The neighborhood dollar store crumbled to its foundation, along with the cinderblock wall of the hardware store. The east wall of the grocery store littered the expanse of the adjacent parking lot. The flames raged on for hours at the explosion site, hampering rescue efforts, and casting a catastrophic glow across the town’s wreckage.
I was two years old when the explosion happened. My family’s home was five blocks from the industrial fence line, and less than half a mile from the catalytic cracking unit. My bed was situated beneath a window that faced east. The blast shattered all the window panes, and the broken glass rained down onto me. My parents entered in a panic. The room was dim and pulsing red from the refinery light. They discovered me sound asleep, covered in glass, and were convinced that I was dead. My father gingerly picked the glass off me and breathed a sigh of relief as I began to squirm. He led my family through the lights and sirens of the evacuation zone to my grandmother’s house 10 miles up Airline Highway. We stayed there for several days, but my father returned to our house to assess the damage. It was relatively minor, only broken windows—a ubiquitous mark of destruction across the town. But upon his return and for many months following, he felt haunted and uneasy in our home.
All told, there were seven casualties, all of them Shell employees who were onsite at the time. With the flames raging and the debris piled high, their remains were difficult to recover. Search teams wearing protective clothing and oxygen tanks scoured the disaster site. FBI agents visited Norco in the days following to assist in the forensics investigation as they pulled bodies from the charred rubble and twisted steel.
The intensity of the blast was 1/20th the size of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima. If it occurred in the middle of the day, one could imagine customers dead in the dollar store, crushed where the ceiling met the floor; concussed in parking lots; or laid out in the aisles of the hardware store. There would have certainly been more workers moving about Shell’s premises, more people walking through their homes. But thankfully, the town slept through the blast.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Archive: The Times-Picayune
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
NORCO, LOUISIANA
Shell Oil erected their catalytic cracking unit in the early 1950s during a multimillion dollar expansion boom. The unit itself was 16 stories high, a “colossus of the petroleum industry” as described by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The new machinery grew outwards and upwards from the old tiers of the refinery, consuming 3,178 tons of structural steel, 27,500 cubic yards of concrete, 8,000 valves of all shapes and sizes, and thousands of pilings driven deep into the deltaic mud. By 1955, the enormous expansion was complete. The small river town of Norco, Louisiana now had an industrial skyline, and the cat cracker was its most impressive spire.
As decades passed, however, the unit became just more steel in the bizarre landscape of the town. It was a single component in a system of petrochemical production that was growing ever more complex. More variables, more hazards. A new chemical agent was introduced to the daily production process of the machine, but the corrosive properties of the agent weren’t adequately tested. Over the course of six months, it began to wear away a pipe elbow deep inside the machine. The corrosion formed a hole, and through the hole, hydrocarbons poured into a confined chamber of the unit. It created a dense, combustible ball of gas; and on the predawn morning of May 5th, 1988, within the chamber something sparked.
The shockwave blossomed out in a 30 mile radius, shattering windows across the region. Some Norco residents describe being catapulted entirely from their beds, hitting the ground along with the glass and debris. Doors blew completely off their hinges. Ceilings collapsed. Large shards of window panes shot like daggers across rooms and penetrated sheetrock. The neighborhood dollar store crumbled to its foundation, along with the cinderblock wall of the hardware store. The east wall of the grocery store littered the expanse of the adjacent parking lot. The flames raged on for hours at the explosion site, hampering rescue efforts, and casting a catastrophic glow across the town’s wreckage.
I was two years old when the explosion happened. My family’s home was five blocks from the industrial fence line, and less than half a mile from the catalytic cracking unit. My bed was situated beneath a window that faced east. The blast shattered all the window panes, and the broken glass rained down onto me. My parents entered in a panic. The room was dim and pulsing red from the refinery light. They discovered me sound asleep, covered in glass, and were convinced that I was dead. My father gingerly picked the glass off me and breathed a sigh of relief as I began to squirm. He led my family through the lights and sirens of the evacuation zone to my grandmother’s house 10 miles up Airline Highway. We stayed there for several days, but my father returned to our house to assess the damage. It was relatively minor, only broken windows—a ubiquitous mark of destruction across the town. But upon his return and for many months following, he felt haunted and uneasy in our home.
All told, there were seven casualties, all of them Shell employees who were onsite at the time. With the flames raging and the debris piled high, their remains were difficult to recover. Search teams wearing protective clothing and oxygen tanks scoured the disaster site. FBI agents visited Norco in the days following to assist in the forensics investigation as they pulled bodies from the charred rubble and twisted steel.
The intensity of the blast was 1/20th the size of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima. If it occurred in the middle of the day, one could imagine customers dead in the dollar store, crushed where the ceiling met the floor; concussed in parking lots; or laid out in the aisles of the hardware store. There would have certainly been more workers moving about Shell’s premises, more people walking through their homes. But thankfully, the town slept through the blast.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Archive: The Times-Picayune
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
NORCO, LOUISIANA
Shell Oil erected their catalytic cracking unit in the early 1950s during a multimillion dollar expansion boom. The unit itself was 16 stories high, a “colossus of the petroleum industry” as described by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The new machinery grew outwards and upwards from the old tiers of the refinery, consuming 3,178 tons of structural steel, 27,500 cubic yards of concrete, 8,000 valves of all shapes and sizes, and thousands of pilings driven deep into the deltaic mud. By 1955, the enormous expansion was complete. The small river town of Norco, Louisiana now had an industrial skyline, and the cat cracker was its most impressive spire.
As decades passed, however, the unit became just more steel in the bizarre landscape of the town. It was a single component in a system of petrochemical production that was growing ever more complex. More variables, more hazards. A new chemical agent was introduced to the daily production process of the machine, but the corrosive properties of the agent weren’t adequately tested. Over the course of six months, it began to wear away a pipe elbow deep inside the machine. The corrosion formed a hole, and through the hole, hydrocarbons poured into a confined chamber of the unit. It created a dense, combustible ball of gas; and on the predawn morning of May 5th, 1988, within the chamber something sparked.
The shockwave blossomed out in a 30 mile radius, shattering windows across the region. Some Norco residents describe being catapulted entirely from their beds, hitting the ground along with the glass and debris. Doors blew completely off their hinges. Ceilings collapsed. Large shards of window panes shot like daggers across rooms and penetrated sheetrock. The neighborhood dollar store crumbled to its foundation, along with the cinderblock wall of the hardware store. The east wall of the grocery store littered the expanse of the adjacent parking lot. The flames raged on for hours at the explosion site, hampering rescue efforts, and casting a catastrophic glow across the town’s wreckage.
I was two years old when the explosion happened. My family’s home was five blocks from the industrial fence line, and less than half a mile from the catalytic cracking unit. My bed was situated beneath a window that faced east. The blast shattered all the window panes, and the broken glass rained down onto me. My parents entered in a panic. The room was dim and pulsing red from the refinery light. They discovered me sound asleep, covered in glass, and were convinced that I was dead. My father gingerly picked the glass off me and breathed a sigh of relief as I began to squirm. He led my family through the lights and sirens of the evacuation zone to my grandmother’s house 10 miles up Airline Highway. We stayed there for several days, but my father returned to our house to assess the damage. It was relatively minor, only broken windows—a ubiquitous mark of destruction across the town. But upon his return and for many months following, he felt haunted and uneasy in our home.
All told, there were seven casualties, all of them Shell employees who were onsite at the time. With the flames raging and the debris piled high, their remains were difficult to recover. Search teams wearing protective clothing and oxygen tanks scoured the disaster site. FBI agents visited Norco in the days following to assist in the forensics investigation as they pulled bodies from the charred rubble and twisted steel.
The intensity of the blast was 1/20th the size of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima. If it occurred in the middle of the day, one could imagine customers dead in the dollar store, crushed where the ceiling met the floor; concussed in parking lots; or laid out in the aisles of the hardware store. There would have certainly been more workers moving about Shell’s premises, more people walking through their homes. But thankfully, the town slept through the blast.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Archive: The Times-Picayune
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
NORCO, LOUISIANA
Shell Oil erected their catalytic cracking unit in the early 1950s during a multimillion dollar expansion boom. The unit itself was 16 stories high, a “colossus of the petroleum industry” as described by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The new machinery grew outwards and upwards from the old tiers of the refinery, consuming 3,178 tons of structural steel, 27,500 cubic yards of concrete, 8,000 valves of all shapes and sizes, and thousands of pilings driven deep into the deltaic mud. By 1955, the enormous expansion was complete. The small river town of Norco, Louisiana now had an industrial skyline, and the cat cracker was its most impressive spire.
As decades passed, however, the unit became just more steel in the bizarre landscape of the town. It was a single component in a system of petrochemical production that was growing ever more complex. More variables, more hazards. A new chemical agent was introduced to the daily production process of the machine, but the corrosive properties of the agent weren’t adequately tested. Over the course of six months, it began to wear away a pipe elbow deep inside the machine. The corrosion formed a hole, and through the hole, hydrocarbons poured into a confined chamber of the unit. It created a dense, combustible ball of gas; and on the predawn morning of May 5th, 1988, within the chamber something sparked.
The shockwave blossomed out in a 30 mile radius, shattering windows across the region. Some Norco residents describe being catapulted entirely from their beds, hitting the ground along with the glass and debris. Doors blew completely off their hinges. Ceilings collapsed. Large shards of window panes shot like daggers across rooms and penetrated sheetrock. The neighborhood dollar store crumbled to its foundation, along with the cinderblock wall of the hardware store. The east wall of the grocery store littered the expanse of the adjacent parking lot. The flames raged on for hours at the explosion site, hampering rescue efforts, and casting a catastrophic glow across the town’s wreckage.
I was two years old when the explosion happened. My family’s home was five blocks from the industrial fence line, and less than half a mile from the catalytic cracking unit. My bed was situated beneath a window that faced east. The blast shattered all the window panes, and the broken glass rained down onto me. My parents entered in a panic. The room was dim and pulsing red from the refinery light. They discovered me sound asleep, covered in glass, and were convinced that I was dead. My father gingerly picked the glass off me and breathed a sigh of relief as I began to squirm. He led my family through the lights and sirens of the evacuation zone to my grandmother’s house 10 miles up Airline Highway. We stayed there for several days, but my father returned to our house to assess the damage. It was relatively minor, only broken windows—a ubiquitous mark of destruction across the town. But upon his return and for many months following, he felt haunted and uneasy in our home.
All told, there were seven casualties, all of them Shell employees who were onsite at the time. With the flames raging and the debris piled high, their remains were difficult to recover. Search teams wearing protective clothing and oxygen tanks scoured the disaster site. FBI agents visited Norco in the days following to assist in the forensics investigation as they pulled bodies from the charred rubble and twisted steel.
The intensity of the blast was 1/20th the size of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima. If it occurred in the middle of the day, one could imagine customers dead in the dollar store, crushed where the ceiling met the floor; concussed in parking lots; or laid out in the aisles of the hardware store. There would have certainly been more workers moving about Shell’s premises, more people walking through their homes. But thankfully, the town slept through the blast.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Archive: The Times-Picayune
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
NORCO, LOUISIANA
Shell Oil erected their catalytic cracking unit in the early 1950s during a multimillion dollar expansion boom. The unit itself was 16 stories high, a “colossus of the petroleum industry” as described by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The new machinery grew outwards and upwards from the old tiers of the refinery, consuming 3,178 tons of structural steel, 27,500 cubic yards of concrete, 8,000 valves of all shapes and sizes, and thousands of pilings driven deep into the deltaic mud. By 1955, the enormous expansion was complete. The small river town of Norco, Louisiana now had an industrial skyline, and the cat cracker was its most impressive spire.
As decades passed, however, the unit became just more steel in the bizarre landscape of the town. It was a single component in a system of petrochemical production that was growing ever more complex. More variables, more hazards. A new chemical agent was introduced to the daily production process of the machine, but the corrosive properties of the agent weren’t adequately tested. Over the course of six months, it began to wear away a pipe elbow deep inside the machine. The corrosion formed a hole, and through the hole, hydrocarbons poured into a confined chamber of the unit. It created a dense, combustible ball of gas; and on the predawn morning of May 5th, 1988, within the chamber something sparked.
The shockwave blossomed out in a 30 mile radius, shattering windows across the region. Some Norco residents describe being catapulted entirely from their beds, hitting the ground along with the glass and debris. Doors blew completely off their hinges. Ceilings collapsed. Large shards of window panes shot like daggers across rooms and penetrated sheetrock. The neighborhood dollar store crumbled to its foundation, along with the cinderblock wall of the hardware store. The east wall of the grocery store littered the expanse of the adjacent parking lot. The flames raged on for hours at the explosion site, hampering rescue efforts, and casting a catastrophic glow across the town’s wreckage.
I was two years old when the explosion happened. My family’s home was five blocks from the industrial fence line, and less than half a mile from the catalytic cracking unit. My bed was situated beneath a window that faced east. The blast shattered all the window panes, and the broken glass rained down onto me. My parents entered in a panic. The room was dim and pulsing red from the refinery light. They discovered me sound asleep, covered in glass, and were convinced that I was dead. My father gingerly picked the glass off me and breathed a sigh of relief as I began to squirm. He led my family through the lights and sirens of the evacuation zone to my grandmother’s house 10 miles up Airline Highway. We stayed there for several days, but my father returned to our house to assess the damage. It was relatively minor, only broken windows—a ubiquitous mark of destruction across the town. But upon his return and for many months following, he felt haunted and uneasy in our home.
All told, there were seven casualties, all of them Shell employees who were onsite at the time. With the flames raging and the debris piled high, their remains were difficult to recover. Search teams wearing protective clothing and oxygen tanks scoured the disaster site. FBI agents visited Norco in the days following to assist in the forensics investigation as they pulled bodies from the charred rubble and twisted steel.
The intensity of the blast was 1/20th the size of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima. If it occurred in the middle of the day, one could imagine customers dead in the dollar store, crushed where the ceiling met the floor; concussed in parking lots; or laid out in the aisles of the hardware store. There would have certainly been more workers moving about Shell’s premises, more people walking through their homes. But thankfully, the town slept through the blast.
Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker
Archive: The Times-Picayune
* * *
Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info

NORCO, LOUISIANA

Shell Oil erected their catalytic cracking unit in the early 1950s during a multimillion dollar expansion boom. The unit itself was 16 stories high, a “colossus of the petroleum industry” as described by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The new machinery grew outwards and upwards from the old tiers of the refinery, consuming 3,178 tons of structural steel, 27,500 cubic yards of concrete, 8,000 valves of all shapes and sizes, and thousands of pilings driven deep into the deltaic mud. By 1955, the enormous expansion was complete. The small river town of Norco, Louisiana now had an industrial skyline, and the cat cracker was its most impressive spire.

As decades passed, however, the unit became just more steel in the bizarre landscape of the town. It was a single component in a system of petrochemical production that was growing ever more complex. More variables, more hazards. A new chemical agent was introduced to the daily production process of the machine, but the corrosive properties of the agent weren’t adequately tested. Over the course of six months, it began to wear away a pipe elbow deep inside the machine. The corrosion formed a hole, and through the hole, hydrocarbons poured into a confined chamber of the unit. It created a dense, combustible ball of gas; and on the predawn morning of May 5th, 1988, within the chamber something sparked.

The shockwave blossomed out in a 30 mile radius, shattering windows across the region. Some Norco residents describe being catapulted entirely from their beds, hitting the ground along with the glass and debris. Doors blew completely off their hinges. Ceilings collapsed. Large shards of window panes shot like daggers across rooms and penetrated sheetrock. The neighborhood dollar store crumbled to its foundation, along with the cinderblock wall of the hardware store. The east wall of the grocery store littered the expanse of the adjacent parking lot. The flames raged on for hours at the explosion site, hampering rescue efforts, and casting a catastrophic glow across the town’s wreckage.

I was two years old when the explosion happened. My family’s home was five blocks from the industrial fence line, and less than half a mile from the catalytic cracking unit. My bed was situated beneath a window that faced east. The blast shattered all the window panes, and the broken glass rained down onto me. My parents entered in a panic. The room was dim and pulsing red from the refinery light. They discovered me sound asleep, covered in glass, and were convinced that I was dead. My father gingerly picked the glass off me and breathed a sigh of relief as I began to squirm. He led my family through the lights and sirens of the evacuation zone to my grandmother’s house 10 miles up Airline Highway. We stayed there for several days, but my father returned to our house to assess the damage. It was relatively minor, only broken windows—a ubiquitous mark of destruction across the town. But upon his return and for many months following, he felt haunted and uneasy in our home.

All told, there were seven casualties, all of them Shell employees who were onsite at the time. With the flames raging and the debris piled high, their remains were difficult to recover. Search teams wearing protective clothing and oxygen tanks scoured the disaster site. FBI agents visited Norco in the days following to assist in the forensics investigation as they pulled bodies from the charred rubble and twisted steel.

The intensity of the blast was 1/20th the size of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima. If it occurred in the middle of the day, one could imagine customers dead in the dollar store, crushed where the ceiling met the floor; concussed in parking lots; or laid out in the aisles of the hardware store. There would have certainly been more workers moving about Shell’s premises, more people walking through their homes. But thankfully, the town slept through the blast.

Words & Map - Darin Acosta; Images - Breonne Dedecker

Archive: The Times-Picayune

* * *

Darin Acosta has spent his entire life exploring and documenting the wetlands, oil infrastructure and forgotten blight of South Louisiana and studied urban and environmental planning at the University of New Orleans. Breonne DeDecker was born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it. She has degrees in photography and sustainable development. 

Their current work, The Airline is a Very Long Road, is an experimental biography of Louisiana, which you can find at airlinehighway.tumblr.com.