11:32 am - Monday May 28, 2012

Hurricane Camille

Hurricane Camille was the third and strongest tropical cyclone and second hurricane during the 1969 Atlantic hurricane season. The second of three catastrophic Category 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the United States during the 20th century (the others being 1935′s Labor Day hurricane and 1992′s Hurricane Andrew), which it did near the mouth of the Mississippi River on the night of August 17. Camille and unofficially the Labor Day Hurricane were the only Atlantic hurricanes to exhibit recorded sustained wind speeds of at least 190 miles per hour (310 km/h) until Allen joined the club in 1980, and remains the only confirmed Atlantic hurricane in recorded history to make landfall with wind speeds at or above such a level. The actual windspeed of Hurricane Camille will never be known, however, as it destroyed all of the wind recording instruments upon making landfall. By central pressure, in turn, Camille was the second strongest U.S. landfalling hurricane in recorded history, second only to the Labor Day Hurricane in 1935. It was also the first modern Category 5 hurricane to ever receive a person’s name when making landfall in the United States.

The storm formed on August 14 and rapidly deepened. It scraped the western edge of Cuba at Category 3 intensity. Camille strengthened further over the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall with a pressure of 905 mbar (hPa), estimated sustained winds of 190 mph (305 km/h), and a peak official storm surge of 24 feet (7.3 m); by maximum sustained wind speeds, Camille was one of the strongest landfalling tropical cyclones recorded worldwide, and one of only four tropical cyclones worldwide ever to officially achieve wind speeds of 190 miles per hour (310 km/h). The hurricane flattened nearly everything along the coast of the U.S. state of Mississippi, and caused additional flooding and deaths inland while crossing the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. In total, Camille killed 259 people and caused $1.42 billion (1969 USD, $8.51 billion 2012 USD) in damages. To this day, a complete understanding of the reasons for the system’s power, extremely rapid intensification over open water and strength at landfall has not been achieved.

Impact of Hurricane Camille

Making landfall as a Category 5 hurricane, Camille caused damage and destruction across much of the Gulf Coast of the United States. Because it moved quickly through the region, Hurricane Camille dropped only moderate precipitation in most areas. Areas near its point of landfall reported from 7 inches (180 mm) to 10 inches (250 mm). The area of total destruction in Harrison County, Mississippi was 68 square miles (180 km2). The total estimated cost of damage was $1.42 billion (1969 USD, $8.51 billion 2012 USD). This made Camille the second-most expensive hurricane in the United States, up to that point (behind Hurricane Betsy). The storm directly killed 143 people along Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. An additional 153 people perished as a result of catastrophic flooding in Nelson County, Virginia and other areas nearby. In all, 8,931 people were injured, 5,662 homes were destroyed, and 13,915 homes experienced major damage, with many of the fatalities being coastal residents who had refused to evacuate.

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