Hurricane Rita's winds did little damage in Vermilion Parish, but the surging water that the storm pushed up from the Gulf of Mexico and Vermilion Bay was a different story. Flooding destroyed scores of homes on the edge of the marsh and pushed north of the coast up to Erath, where the air smelled of marsh muck and bleach days after the storm.
At the Acadian Museum, founder Warren Perrin pulled out stacks of Cajun genealogy books, history books, maps, and stacks of files with names like Truman Visits Abbeville Photographs, Vermilion Parish Railroads and Thibodeaux Family Genealogy.
All were stacked in a heap behind the museum, destined for the trash. Perrin said everything within 15 inches of the floor was soaked.
"They weren't letting anyone in on Sunday, but we managed to get in with the help of the Marines," Perrin said. "They gave us an hour. We got a truckload of the rarest items."
Perrin said he trudged through about six inches of mud and grabbed most of the Acadian textiles held by the museum "and as many of the original maps that we could carry."
The many genealogy books stored on lower shelves were damaged beyond repair.