In the first week of October 1964, Hurricane Hilda made landfall in St. Mary Parish with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph. Luckily for Louisiana residents, the storm had peaked while still offshore. Just a day or so prior to landfall, Hilda had 150 mph winds, what would be considered a Category 4 today.
Hilda may not have been one of the strongest storms to make landfall in Louisiana, but she caused extensive damage and destruction. A total of 38 people were killed and thousands were injured, with over 300 being hospitalized.
The single-most tragic event during Hilda happened in Erath. High winds caused the water tower to collapse, falling directly onto Erath Town Hall which had been set up as a civil defense command center. Sadly, eight people were killed and six more were injured in this horrific incident.
The Erath incident is included in this news footage. You will also get a glimpse of Blackham Coliseum and downtown Franklin :
As with most hurricanes of Hilda’s size and strength, flooding was a major issue. An area NW of Jeanerette recorded 17.71 inches of rain. The flooding and winds took a toll on Louisiana agriculture. It was estimated that 98% of the sugar cane crop of 1964 was damaged by Hilda.
Here is a clip filmed in Erath as the damage from the water tower collapse is being cleaned up. The video has no audio: