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Hurricane Camille 1969

It was the strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. in nearly 34 years. Hurricane Camille struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969. It was only one of 2 catagory 5 storms to make landfall in the United States. It formed August 14 south of Cuba. Camille was a compact storm something that would eventually baffle forecasters due to its intensity. The next day it became a hurricane and strengthened rapidly to a catgory 3 storm over the western coast of Cuba. Camille generated 92 mile per hour winds at Guane, and spread 10 inch rains over the western sections of the island. Three persons were reported killed. After it got over the warm Gulf of Mexico, it exploded. Forecasters thought the size of the could pattern indicated the strength as I just noted Camille was a compact storm that would eventually have winds of 190 mph! Early on the 17th, with Camille 250 miles sout of Mobile, and hurricane warnings extending westward to New Orleans, Mississippi coastal residents were boarding up homes and businesses and heading inland. As the day wore on, inland moving traffic increased as did the hurricane threat to low-lying areas. Radio and television stations carried ESSA warnings every few minutes, while Police and Civil Defense officials went into isolated areas to urge people to evacuate. One last reconnaissance flight was made early Sunday afternoon (17th), and Air Force pilot Marvin A. Little and his crew found a central pressure of 901 millibars (26.61 inches) and maximum surface winds at more that 200 miles per hour (175 knots) near the center. Due to engine trouble, this was the last penetration made. Hurricane force winds extended out to 60 miles; Camille was a small, but extremely intense hurricane located less than 100 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River. The storm was at its peak and was under surveillance of the New Orleans radar. As Camille brushed southeastern Louisiana easterly winds ahead of the center and northerly winds to its west pushed a massive storm surge through the marshes of this area. Because of the shape of the bays and inlets, surge heights varied at different locations; water levels reached 9 feet above m.s.l. near the mouth of the Mississippi, at Garden Island. In several places, from the Empire Canal southward to Buras, Boothville, and Venice the surge poured over both the east and west bank Mississippi River levees and was trapped by the back levees, leaving the built-up areas between the levees severely flooded. It kept intensifing as it headed toward Mississippi. The evening of the 17th of August, rapidly moving Camille made landfall just to the west of Pass Christian, Mississippi. Winds in Gulfport to the east were at 100mph with gusts from 150 mph to 175 mph! Gusts near the center were estimated well over 200 mph! Storm surge was incredible in Pass Christian of over 24 feet! Among the 256 dead, in which 100 died in floods, a hurricane party was occuring at an apartment complex in Pass Christian. When Camille came ashore, the whole place was leveled. There were 25 people still there during the storm only 2 survived many killed in the storm surge which drifted them into the marshes and bayous. Camille ripped a swath of destruction along the entire length of the Mississippi coast up to three or four blocks inland. She also destroyed some inland areas such as resedential sections of West Gulfport and the Biloxi suburb of D'Iberville. In low areas the rows of houses stopped a block or two from the beach and beyond a row of debris were bare foundations along the beach front. From Pascagoula to Pass Christian, and to a lesser degree farther east and west, piles of lumber, building materials and trees were thrown together by the surge. In some cases, piles of debris extended for more than a block square. Highway 90, the main coastal thoroughfare, was covered with sand in many sections and completely washed away in other sections. About one-third of the Bay St. Louis Bridge and one-half of the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge were damaged when tides lifted the spans off their supports. The Army Corps of Engineers indicated that to make some 530 miles of roads passable, about 100,000 tons of debris had to be cleared away. Mr. M. James Stevens, Vice-President of the Mississippi Resteraunt Association, reported that the Coast's resort industry suffered the worst disaster of any similar recreation area in the world. Along U.S. 90, in the Biloxi area, some 60 resort properties suffered damage with about one-half of them destroyed. Buildings on high knolls of about 20 feet or more were able to weather the high winds and survive the storm surge. Many buildings at the 10 feet level were crushed. At Clermont Harbor, the destruction was total, and eastward to Bay St. Louis many hundreds of beach homes were destroyed. Henderson Point in the Pass Christian area was completely destroyed except for an old building that was formerly a maritime academy. In the Gulfport harbor, damage was severe. Three large cargo ships, the ALAMO VICTORY, the HULDA, and the SILVER HAWK were badly damaged and washed high aground at the north end of the harbor. At the banana wharf, all the sheet metal was stripped from the structures, but most of the framework was intact. On the west side of the harbor, most of the damage was to the lower walls of the buildings where the battering-ram effect of floating cargo carried the sides away. A large diesel fuel barge lifted out of the harbor, carried ashore, and deposited on the medial strip of U.S. 90. Farther up the beach was a large oil storage tank that had floated several miles from its original position. The beautiful, modern marina fronting the Broadwater Beach Hotel at Biloxi appeared to be intact, but at close inspection the molded concrete covers over the boat slips had corners and pieces broken off by floating debris in the high water. Buildings along the waterfront were demolished and most of the boats were either sunk or had been washed away. At Pascagoula's Ingalls Shipyard the large cargo ship, MORMACSUN, under construction, broke its moorings and was carried by a 12 foot rise of water onto high ground. In Hancock County most residents live in low-lying areas. In the hamlets of Lakeshore, Clermont Park, Pearlington, Ansley and the Cedar Point seection of Bay St. Louis, destruction was almost complete. Storm surges of 15 feet and higher and devastating winds turned beach houses into stacks of driftwood. At the Mississippi Test Facility, southeast of Picayune, some 1600 refugees took shelter Sunday night (17th). The high winds and water knocked down some overhead powerlines and flooded the underground lines. Emergency generators were put into use but operations at the facility were suspended until Tuesday. In Pearl River County there was an estimated $35-40 million loss from damage. The county agent said that about 85 percent of the dairy barns in the county were either severely damaged or were a complete loss. About 35,000-40,000 acres or bearing tung trees were destroyed. There was an additional loss in timber and heavy damage was inflicted on the pecan crop. In Poplarville, the county seat, the mayor estimated that about 90 percent of the homes sustained damage in varying degrees. There was electric power failure throughout 14 counties, from the coast to as far north as Simpson County. In some sections this loss lasted for several days. The South Mississippi Power Company had to almost completely rebuild their distribution system, and their transmission network was badly damaged. Camille's effects were also devastating on telephone service. Of Mississippi's 765,000 telephones, approximately 15 percent were out of service. In the Gulf Coast area this figure jumped to 67 percent. The U.S. Forest Service made an aerial survey over a 14 county area of southern Mississippi, an area of 3.8 million acres, which revealed that about 1.9 million acres of commercial forest land in 12 counties received varying degrees of damage. Observations from the air indicated that hardwood forests suffered somewhat heavier damage than pine forests. Some of the hardwood forests were completely defoliated by severe winds. The Forest Service estimates damage to Mississippi sawtimber at 1.8 billion board feet and to pulpwood at 1.4 million cords. Damage in Louisian was confined mainly to southeastern sections with some damage in the eastern part of the state. The storm surge generated by Camille swept the area from Empire southward clean. Most structures in this area, including some that had survived hurricane Betsy, were completely demolished by the combination of wind and water. The tidal surge also flooded some parts of lower St. Bernard Parish and eastern sections of Orlean Parish. Camille's intense winds were unusually small in areal extent, particularly to the west of the center. Over 5 billion dollars worth in damage due to this storm that also caused flooding into Kentucky and Virginia. It emerged off the Delmarva coast as a tropical storm 3 days later. For MRS Weather, I'm Marcus Smith.

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