A look back at Hurricane Camille and the devastation in Nelson County 52 years ago

Safety in the Storm

Hurricane Camille made landfall as a Category 5 on Aug. 17 in 1969, devastating the coastal town of Bay St. Louis and surrounding cities and communities. Sustained winds of 175 mph slammed into the shoreline towns and the monster hurricane generated a dangerously high storm surge of over 20 feet. Almost 150 people lost their lives along the coast, but Camille was not finished with the destruction.

Camille quickly dropped to a tropical storm in less than 24 hours as it moved north through Mississippi. On Aug. 19 the remnant low made a sharp hook to the east as Camille tracked almost directly over the city of Roanoke.

As Camille approached the Mid Atlantic region the former Cat 5 quickly developed into one of the most devastating natural disasters to impact the Commonwealth.

Numerous meteorological factors came together that fateful night and Camille went into the record books. A perfect combination of moisture and mountainous terrain along with a blocking cold front to the north resulted in catastrophic flooding. Nelson County was ground zero the devastation as overnight Aug. 19 – 20 25 – 30 inches of rain fell on the mountainous terrain.

Over 100 residents of Nelson county lost their lives that night as the flooding rains caused creeks and rivers in the area to swell several feet above their banks. Landslides and mudslides reshaped the landscape.

Shortly after Camille, the U.S. Government decided there needed to be a nationally coordinated effort to deal with the wide variety of natural disasters, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency was created.

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