The Last Island hurricane of 1856 left more than 200 dead and led to the abandonment of Isle Dernière.

By Meghan Overdeep
August 27, 2020
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Chris Cassidy/NASA

Early this morning, with maximum wind speeds of 150 miles per hour, Hurricane Laura became the strongest storm to hit Louisiana in 160 years.

Laura is officially on par with the Last Island hurricane of 1856, which left more than 200 dead and led to the abandonment of the island known as Isle Dernière. Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005 with winds of 125 mph and a storm surge of over 27 feet, the highest confirmed in U.S. history.

The Last Island hurricane (also called the Great Storm of 1856) struck the barrier island/pleasure resort five miles southwest of New Orleans on August 10. The monster storm split the 24-mile-long island in two, its 13-foot storm surge submerging its highest points beneath five-feet of water.  It was never inhabited again.

“It seemed all the aerial currents in creation had been turned upon us,” Reverend R.S. McAllister, a surviver of the storm, later wrote. “Fiery lightning almost constantly illumined the heavens… The Gulf upon one side and the bay upon the other were advancing upon us.”

According to Smithsonian Magazine, 78 percent of the island’s considerable land mass was submerged by 1988. What remains of it is now known as the pluralized Isles Dernières chain. Today, four of the chain’s five islands make up the Isle Dernieres Barrier Islands Refuge, which is home to nesting waterbirds.

WATCH: Rescue Organizations Rush to Remove Shelter Pets from Hurricane Laura’s Path

Hurricane Laura, which made landfall in the Lake Charles area, is now at Category 1 strength. It is currently raging over inland Louisiana.

"The damage is extensive," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards told CNN. "It appears now we have more structural damage from the wind" than storm surge.

Stay safe out there, y’all!