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Notable Cyclones Part VIII: Hurricane Camille [1969]
      #75457 - Fri Jun 08 2007 03:01 PM

Hey Folks,
I have chose to continue my Notable Cyclones Topic.

Hurricane Camille was the third tropical cyclone and second hurricane of the 1969 Atlantic hurricane season. Camille was the second of three Category 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the United States during the 20th century, which it did near the mouth of the Mississippi River on the night of August 17, resulting in catastrophic damage. Camille was the only Atlantic hurricane with official winds reported to reach at 190 mph until Allen in 1980.

The storm formed on August 14 and rapidly deepened. It scraped the western edge of Cuba at Category 3 intensity. Camille strengthened further over the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall with a pressure of 909 hPa. estimated sustained winds of 190 mph (305 km/h), and a peak storm surge of 24 feet (7.3 m); by maximum sustained wind speeds, Camille was the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone recorded worldwide, and one of only four tropical cyclones worldwide to ever reach 165 knots [190 mph] winds. The hurricane flattened nearly everything along the coast of the U.S. state of Mississippi, and caused additional flooding and deaths inland while crossing the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. In total, Camille killed 259 people and caused $1.42 billion (1969 USD, $9.14 billion 2005 USD) in damages.

Figure 1: Hurricane Camille's Track.

History of Hurricane Camille
A tropical wave left the coast of Africa on August 5, becoming a tropical disturbance on August 9, 480 miles east of the Leeward Islands. Aircraft reconnaissance identified a closed circulation in the disturbance on the 14th near Grand Cayman and the system was designated Tropical Storm Camille with 52 knot [60 mph] winds.

The storm already had a well organized circulation and rapidly strengthened from August 14 to August 15 to a 100 knot [115 mph] major hurricane before hitting the western tip of Cuba later that day. Land interaction weakened Camille to a 85 knot [100 mph] hurricane, but it returned to perfect conditions as it crossed the Gulf of Mexico (possibly while passing over the Loop Current). On August 17, Camille reached an intense minimum central pressure of 905 hPa, and it continued to strengthen to a peak of over 165 knots [190 mph] winds (possibly the strongest ever recorded in an Atlantic hurricane). In the hours before landfall, a reconnaissance aircraft was unable to obtain a surface wind report, but it estimated winds of up to 178 knots [205 mph] and a minimum central pressure of 901 mbar (hPa).

Comparisons to Hurricane Katrina
Side-by-side comparison of Camille and KatrinaComparisons between Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 season and Camille are inevitable because of their similar strengths and nearly identical landfall locations. Before Katrina, Camille was considered to be the "benchmark" against which all Gulf Coast hurricanes were measured. Katrina was weaker than Camille at landfall but substantially larger, which led to both a broader and a larger storm surge. Katrina was described by those that experienced Camille as "much worse" - not only because of the massive storm surge, but from the fact that Katrina pounded the Mississippi coast for a longer period of time. Camille also drew part of its record storm surge from adjacent coastal waters; Lake Borgne and Lake Pontchartrain actually receded, sparing the city of New Orleans from flooding.

Some locals argue that Katrina's death toll was made higher because those who survived Camille with no flooding and little damage believed Katrina to be less of a threat, creating a false sense of security among Camille veterans. An innkeeper at the Harbour Oaks Inn, Tony Brugger, stayed at the inn and died when his inn collapsed. A popular rumor has Brugger telling a radio station during an interview that he wouldn't leave because since Camille's surge had not affected the inn, Katrina's would not either.

Figure 2: Hurricane Camille at peak strength

Camille produced the seventh lowest official barometric pressure ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, a scant 905 mbar; the only hurricane to hit the United States with a lower pressure at landfall was the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. A reconnaissance flight indicated a pressure of 901 mbar,[19] but this pressure was not verified, and remains unofficial pending reanalysis. The wind speed of Camille can only be approximated, as no meteorological equipment survived the extreme conditions at landfall, but Camille is estimated to have had sustained winds of 165 knots [190 mph] at landfall, with gusts exceeding 182 knots [210 mph]. Before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Camille likely had the highest storm surge measured in the United States, at over 24 feet (7.3 meters).

The 24-foot storm surge quoted by the Army Corps of Engineers was based on high water marks inside surviving buildings, of which there were but three. Prior to the collapse of the Richelieu Apartments, Ben Duckworth shined a flashlight down a stairwell and found the water within one step of the third-story floor; this establishes a surge height of 28 feet at that spot at that time. About 15 minutes later, the building collapsed and the evidence vanished with it.

Dr. Joe Smith

Substitute Teacher at University of Central Florida


Edited by danielw (Sat Jun 09 2007 05:54 AM)

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Loc: Orlando, Fl
Re: Notable Cyclones Part VIII: Hurricane Camille [1969] [Re: TS2]
      #75458 - Fri Jun 08 2007 04:01 PM


You bring back some memories for me. I was an instructor stationed at Keesler (Biloxi) AFB during Camille. I 'met' one of the site moderators, 'danielw' who was one of the many 'street urchins' left semi-homeless in Biloxi and as an NCO instructor after the storm, our focus went from teaching electronics to disaster recovery. I don't actually recall meeting Danny, but he seems to remember me....I am 6'7" so I guess to a little kid I would stand out I think it was more of a we were in similar situatations rather than actual meetings but you get the idea. We were without power for over 3 months ON THE BASE in the housing areas so I feel for Katrina victims some who are without homes and what they must be going through, some still I would expect. While Camille was probably stronger, it was a tad smaller and slightly (from New Orleans perspective at least, better positioned than Katrina which was bigger and much worse in terms of positioning for damage.

Anyway, I enjoyed your article.

A forecast is NOT a promise!

Edited by danielw (Sat Jun 09 2007 05:58 AM)

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