CYPREMORT POINT, La. (AP) _ The hardy fishermen who live on this spit of marshland jutting into the Gulf of Mexico are no strangers to tropical storms, but the sudden strengthening of Hurricane Juan caught them by surprise.

''You would think I would have learned by now,'' said Kardel Romero, who had just pulled his $14,000 fishing boat out of the water Monday. ''I didn't think it was coming in here, and that there would be a low tide. But we're fixing to get a high tide here. I want to get out.''

Highway 319 leading from the fishing village was busy with boat owners hauling their craft to safety Monday morning as the storm edged westward along the coast.

Flooding obliterated low-lying roads, said Andy Bruch, a helicopter paramedic who flew over the area evacuating patients.

''You can't even see the road anywhere south of Golden Meadow,'' he said. ''Everything's under water. The roads are totally impassable.''

Bruch said many people did not expect the high water thrown up before the storm, which the National Weather Service had described through the night as a ''minimal'' hurricane.

''I think this one surprised people,'' he said. ''It hit us for a longer period of time and just kept on and on. I think the water was quite a bit higher than people expected.''

Almost all of the buildings on the point are built on stilts after centuries of experience with hurricanes, and Richard Legnon, who owns a tackle shop on the water, said the 60 families who live here planned to stay put.

''We're not worried about the wind, but we're going to catch hell from the water. But we've caught it before'' said Legnon, who had his employees busy emptying the store's lower shelves.

''The water comes up real quick, but it doesn't stay long,'' he said.

Legnon said the storm was similar to Danny, another quickly building storm that hit the same area last summer.

''This is a carbon copy of Danny. Camp people were calling me when Danny hit, and at 10 o'clock I told them there was no water. At 11 o'clock I had two and a half feet of water in this store. That's why I'm emptying those shelves.''