LEEVILLE, LA. -- Their eyes are bloodshot. Their scraggy skin glows reddish-brown. They clutch cans of beer. On the wooden deck of Griffin's Marina and Ice, they recoil when approached, like a nest of vipers.
"We used to be fishermen," one sneers, drunk, seething with wounded pride. "But now we work for BP."
For decades, storm surges have swallowed 14 square miles every year in the basins of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. Last year the state redirected Highway 1 around Leeville to elevate the hurricane evacuation route. The town's only thoroughfare became a dead end. Now residents worry that a hurricane will drench the area with oil this summer, killing the root structure that keeps the very earth together.
The renters at Leeville RV Park have skipped town, itching to break their year-long leases. Terry Serigny, whose family helped found Leeville and who was raised here on houseboats, turned off the freezers at his bait shop when he closed last month. He hopes to receive a second $5,000 payment from BP soon.
"This is tearing us up," says Serigny, 57. "When everybody looks at each other, you can see it in people's eyes. We've fought recessions, and storm after storm. We can't fight this. . . . I don't have no other place to live. I only went to the sixth grade. It would be hard for me to wear a tie and have a briefcase and look for a job."