NEW ORLEANS -- Erratic Hurricane Juan, which dumped more than 10 inches of rain last week and left at least nine people dead or missing in Louisiana, might have been the most expensive storm ever to hit the Gulf Coast state.
Gov. Edwin Edwards toured the battered coastal area and estimated property damage at up to $1 billion, including destruction of the state's sugar cane crop, half its soybean crop and one-fifth its cotton crop.
About 100,000 people returned to their sodden homes during the weekend as the tide receded, while others stayed with relatives, in hotels and temporary shelters and waited for the floodwaters to disappear.
The storm, whose 85 mph winds did not qualify it as a major hurricane, caught farmers, ranchers and the offshore oil industry off guard when it wobbled through southern Louisiana for five days until a Pacific cold front pushed the disorganized mass into the Gulf of Mexico.
The torrential rains and high tidal surge breeched levees, overflowed rivers and lakes and turned residential neighborhoods into swamps, leaving thousands homeless.
At least nine people died or are missing and presumed dead in the waters off southeast Louisiana, more than 100 were hospitalized and more than 200 others were rescued by the Coast Guard.
Hurricane Betsy by comparison -- one of Louisiana's most destructive storms and the fourth most destructive nationally -- killed 75 people and caused $1.4 billion damage to four states with its 145 mph winds in 1965.
In Louisiana, Betsy destroyed about $120 million in property or about $410 million in 1985 dollars.
Hurricane Camille, which hit four years later with winds of 180 mph and killed 255 people, also caused $1.4 billion damage. One third of that amount -- $433 million -- occurred in Louisiana for a total $947 million in 1985 dollars.
Juan's duration made it more destructive than Betsy or Camille.
President Reagan last week declared Jefferson, Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes as disaster areas, opening up federal aid to families and businesses. Disaster teams moved in during the weekend and said relief offices would be open Wednesday.
Additional parishes were expected to be declared disaster areas this week.