« New storm threatens Gulf of Mexico | Main | Sky show: Crescent moon, Venus and space station »

August 16, 2009

Hurricane Camille made history 40 years ago

Hurricane Camille 

Forty years ago tomorrow, the most powerful storm ever to visit the U.S. mainland crashed ashore along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Nearly everything in Camille's path, along the coast from Biloxi west to the Alabama state line, was reduced to splinters. If the 190 mph winds (and higher gusts) didn't get it, the 22-foot storm surge probably did. It was the highest storm surge ever recorded in the U.S. Homes went under water 2 miles from the Gulf shore.

Barometric pressure at Camille's center dropped to 26.85 inches, the second-lowest ever measured in the U.S.

More than 200,000 people fled north. Another 44,000 entered shelters. That, plus the relatively low population and development in the region in 1969, prevented the death and destruction from becoming worse than it was. Even so, an estimated 255 people died, and 8,900 were injured. Property damage totaled $4.2 billion in 1969 dollars. Some 14,000 housing units were damaged, and 6,000 more were totally destroyed.

In hindsight, Hurricane Andrew (1992) caused more property damage, and Hurricane Katrina (2005) killed more people. But in its time, Camille was the biggest single destructive event in U.S. history.

And it didn't end after Camille went ashore in Mississippi. The weakening storm moved inland to Kentucky, then turned toward West Virginia and Virginia. Heavy rains and flash flooding caused more damage and deaths in West Virginia. Flash flooding killed 153 people in Virginia as the storm regained tropical storm strength and dropped 12 to 20 inches of rain there. Destruction and damage were widespread, and totalled more than $140 million in 1969 dollars.

The name Camille was permanently retired from the list of names available for Atlantic hurricanes.

Looking at the old newspaper clips from that week, it's interesting to note what else was going on at the time. The last few hundred thousand music lovers were preparing to leave the site of the Woodstock festival in upstate New York. Lunar astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were thinking about whether they would seek new space missions. (Collins was finished; Aldrin wasn't sure, but Armstrong said he was still available to fly.) There was fighting in Vietnam and the Middle East, and the world's longest-surviving heart transplant patient, Dr. Philip Blaiberg, 60, died in a South African hospital 594 days after receiving the world's third heart transplant.

(AP Wirephoto/Parnell McKay, civil defense director for Pass Christian, Miss., surveys the damaged town.)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:56 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricane background


Alabama is east of Biloxi, not west of Biloxi.

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

Sign up for FREE weather alerts*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for weather text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Maryland Weather Center

Area Weather Stations
Resources and Sun coverage
• Weather news

• Readers' photos

• Data from the The Sun's weather station

• 2011 stargazers' calendar

• Become a backyard astronomer in five simple steps

• Baltimore Weather Archive
Daily airport weather data for Baltimore from 1948 to today

• National Weather Service:
Sterling Forecast Office

• Capital Weather Gang:
Washington Post weather blog

• CoCoRaHS:
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. Local observations by volunteers

• Weather Bug:
Webcams across the state

• National Data Buoy Center:
Weather and ocean data from bay and ocean buoys

• U.S. Drought Monitor:
Weekly maps of drought conditions in the U.S.

• USGS Earthquake Hazards Program:
Real-time data on earthquakes

• Water data:
From the USGS, Maryland

• National Hurricane Center

• Air Now:
Government site for air quality information

• NWS Climate Prediction Center:
Long-term and seasonal forecasts

• U.S. Climate at a Glance:
NOAA interactive site for past climate data, national, state and city

• Clear Sky Clock:
Clear sky alerts for stargazers


• Hubblesite:
Home page for Hubble Space Telescope

• Heavens Above:
Everything for the backyard stargazer, tailored to your location

• NASA Eclipse Home Page:
Centuries of eclipse predictions

• Cruise Critic: Hurricane Zone:
Check to see how hurricanes may affect your cruise schedule

• Warming World:
NASA explains the science of climate change with articles, videos, “data visualizations,” and space-based imagery.

• What on Earth:
NASA blog on current research at the space agency.
Most Recent Comments
Blog updates
Recent updates to news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected