Hurricane Camille Hits the Gulf Coast

About Hurricane Camille which ravaged the Gulf Coast in 1969 including Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, the history of the destruction and disaster.


To endure a hurricane is to live a lifetime in an unreal nightmarish world of indescribable terror. The initial shock dazes the mind and numbs the body; people do what they have to do. So it was along the Gulf Coast when Hurricane Camille struck with all its fury to leave a 70-mi. swath of destruction.

When: On Sunday, August 17, 1969.

Where: Along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

The Loss: 241 dead; 19,467 homes and 700 businesses destroyed. Property damage above $1 million.

The Disaster: When hurricane warnings are broadcast, many people leave their homes for the safety of higher ground; 150,000 did just that on August 17, 1969. Those who stayed to ride out the storm didn't know Camille's strength. Though every precaution was taken, this wasn't enough. It was dark at 7 o'clock and strong winds and rain pounded homes, then came through the walls. Electricity went off and portable generators were shorted by water. Homes began to tumble from their foundations and fall to pieces. Roofs blew off. Cargo ships snapped their moorings.

Seawater inundated homes 25' to 30' above sea level. In Gulfport, Miss., Camille seized a 600,000-gallon oil tank and hurled it 3 1/2 mi. Telephone poles splintered like twigs. The roar of the storm resembled battlefield thunder.

Dr. Robert H. Simpson, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla., was quoted: "In its concentrated breadth of some 70 mi., it shot winds of nearly 200 mph and raised tides as much as 30'. Along the Gulf Coast it devastated everything in its swath."

Aftermath: On the 18th, Gulfport residents returned to a scene of unbelievable wreckage strewn with the bodies of humans and animals. The Federal Government moved quickly to bring in 2,200 tons of food, mobile homes, and portable classrooms. Low-interest, long-term business loans were offered.

Tomorrow: Work began immediately on reconstruction. But what of tomorrow's hurricanes? Better warning systems and compulsory evacuation will save lives, but hurricane-proof buildings are not yet on the drawing boards.

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