Figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau suggest the 2005 hurricanes — Rita in southwestern Louisiana and Katrina in the southeast — dramatically shifted the population in Louisiana; the parishes hardest hit by the storms showed the most significant population declines while parishes in proximity to them gained population.

Lafayette Parish grew just more than 16 percent between 2000 and 2010, according the census count, climbing to a population of 221578. Neighboring Acadiana parishes generally showed population increases as well: Acadia is up 4.65 percent, St. Martin increased 7.36 and Vermilion gained 7.78 percent. St. Landry, however, showed a decline, falling nearly 5 percent.

St. Bernard Parish, which is adjacent to Orleans and was widely flooded following Katrina, had the most dramatic population decline, falling 49.6 percent. Orleans was a big loser, too, dropping 29 percent to 343,829 residents and falling to second place as the most populous parish behind East Baton Rouge, which grew to 440,171 residents.

In southwest Lousiana, Cameron Parish, which was virtually scrubbed off the map by Rita’s winds and tidal surge, lost 31.5 percent of its population.

Overall, Louisiana’s population increase over the last decade can best be described as stagnant, climbing 64,396 to 4.5 million.

The census figures will be used by legislators to redraw Louisiana’s state and federal voting districts when they convene a special session March 20. Read more here.

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