On August 17th 1969, I was living in Gulfport Mississippi approximately 1 mile north of US Highway 90 and the beach. I was 12 years old and my parents decided to stay and weather out the storm. We were living in a brick home that was less than 5 years old in the College Park Subdivision in what was then known as Mississippi City. I remember the day starting out as overcast but nothing out of the ordinary except we knew a hurricane was moving north in our direction. You must remember that 30 years ago, storm predictions were really a hit or miss thing and the technology was just not available to predict forward paths of movement. We actually knew the storm was a threat to the Mississippi Gulf Coast about 10 hours before it made landfall. I remember the weather getting really stormy about four in the afternoon. By 6:00 pm the winds were probably gusting 35-40 mph with torrents of rain falling. At 8:40 on that Sunday night, our power failed with lines being blown down all over the neighborhood. Our power was out exactly 1 week to the hour finally being restored on August 24th around 8:00 pm. The most remarkable thing I remember about the storm was the incredible noise the winds made. It literally sounded like a freight train running over the top of the house for hours without any let up. That is a noise I will remember always. After about 4 hours of relentless winds and rain, all the sudden there was silence outside, dead silence! We were inside the eye of the hurricane. The center of the eye actually made landfall in Pass Christian Mississippi which is about 12 miles west of where we were living. That's just how huge this storm was. The silence and calm lasted for almost 45 minutes in which time we went outside and assessed storm damage to our property and secured loose items in the yard. We checked with our neighbors and made sure they were alright while we waited for the storm to begin again. I remember looking into the clear night sky and seeing the stars and even seeing seagulls flying overhead. It was just hard for us to believe there was still more to come. As the other side of the storm approached, the winds shifted from east to westerly. I remember seeing blue and green lightning overhead, really strange looking. The storm lasted approximately 4 more hours finally subsiding around 5:00 AM. When we went outside, the damage all around us was unbelievable. It looked like a bomb had been dropped on the coast. Trees and powerlines were down and roads were impassable. We were not affected by the storm surge of 27 feet as our property was 32 feet above sea level. Later that day, we were able to drive south to highway 90 and the damage was awesome. Parts of the Highway were gone, literally swept out to sea along with many homes that had stood for over 100 years along the beach. All that was left for mile and miles was total destruction. Still to this day 32 years later, signs of Camille can be seen on the coast as witnessed by vacant lots overgrown where stately mansions once stood!

Mid-August, 1969-hurricane warnings blared over every television and radio station. News anchors begged residents along the Gulf Coast to evacuate. Hurricane Camille was fast approaching, its strength unsurpassed by any storm the region had ever seen. With wind gusts of 230 mph and a predicted storm surge of up to 20 feet, forcasters knew Camille would bring catastrophic damage to the coast. First noticed as a tropical disturbance off the coast of Africa in early August, Camille's beginnings were rather unremarkable. For the next several days, the disturbance became more and more organized, prompting the Air Force to send a reconnaissance plane in to investigate on August 14th. Enter Tropical Storm Camille in the western Caribbean. But Camille didn't remain a tropical storm for long. It continued to intensify, reaching hurricane strength the following day. Located 60 miles southeast of Cape San Antonio, Cuba, Camille's winds reached 115 mph. On August 15th, Camille claimed her first 3 victims as it struck Cuba. It dropped 10 inches of rain on the western end of the island with winds gusting over 100 mph. On August 16th, another Air Force reconnaissance team flew into the eye of the hurricane. The information they radioed back to the National Hurricane Center sent chills up the spines of the forcasters. Camille was now a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 160 mph. There was no question the monster storm would strike the Gulf Coast of the United States. The only question was where? On the afternoon of August 17th, Hurricane Camille was less than 100 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Just a few hours from landfall, an Air Force crew flew into the center of the storm and estimated winds of over 200 mph. Hurricane warnings covered much of the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts. Police and civil defense officials went door-to-door in isolated areas urging residents to evacuate. While a majority of residents heeded the warnings, others were determined to ride out the storm as they had done in the past.

Camille's Envelope of High Water From SLOSH Model

Destruction along the Mississippi Gulf Coast was unbelievable. Stately antebellum homes that once lined the beaches were blown completely off their foundations. In some cases the houses were gone never to be seen again. Trees, power poles and vehicles were twisted and scattered by the huge waves and 230 mph wind gusts. The 27 foot storm surge lifted barges from the Gulf of Mexico and deposited them miles inland, in some cases on top of peoples homes. Sand washed up with the surge, covered portions of Highway 90, the main coastal thoroughfare. Other parts of the roadway were completely washed away. The Army Corps of Engineers indicated that to make some 530 miles of roads in the area passable, approximately 100,000 tons of debris would have to be cleared away. Camille is one of only two Category 5 hurricanes on record to make landfall along the U.S. coastline. With wind gusts estimated at over 230 mph, the hurricane demolished nearly everything in its path. What the winds did not level, the crashing waves of the storm surge did. Water some 27 feet above normal sea levels in places rushed inland as Camille came ashore. On top of the huge surge, the highest ever recorded in the United States, wave heights reached 30 to 35 feet battering everything in their path. Camille killed 256 people in the United States. 143 along the Gulf Coast and an additional 113 in the Appalachians, where its remnants caused massive flooding in the days that followed. In 1969, weather reports on television were much different than they are today. The general public did not have access to satellite images, so people didn't have any idea of the monster that was coming at them. This according to Dr. Steve Lyons, the Tropical Weather expert at the Weather Channel. Camille caused more than $1.4 billion in damage from the Gulf Coast to the Appalachians. Mississippi absorbed the brunt of Camille's destruction. The hurricane decimated the state's entire coast with destruction stretching 3 to 4 blocks inland. Roadways were impassable and several bridges, including the Bay St. Louis Bridge and the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge were severely damaged by the rushing water.

Timeline for Hurricane Camille, August 14 - August 19 1969

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