Monday, August 17, 2009

Camille at 40

On the evening of August 17th, 1969 Hurricane Camille came ashore between Pass Christian, MS and Long Beach, MS. By the time this storm had swept through and gone north, in a mere five hours it had assaulted the Mississippi Gulf Coast with estimated 200mph winds, torrential rains, and a storm surge that topped 24ft. Boats were swept inshore like the tug-boat that became the SS Hurricane Camille in Gulfport, in 2005 Hurricane Katrina would finish demolishing this tug and leave it a bent and battered hulk. St. Stanislaus High School in Bay St. Louis and Trinity Episcopal Church in Pass Christian vanished along with homes and lives. In some areas the tide of destruction would extend five miles inland and other areas only a few blocks.

Hurricane Camille killed 131 people on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, three of whom have never been identified. These three women are buried in Gulfport and are simply known as Faith, Hope, and Charity. The last body recovered happened 31 days after landfall, again in Pass Christian, when debris was being cleared and an arm dangled from the shovel of earth-moving equipment. The body was that of 69 year old Violet McDonald. There are still 41 missing from this storm.

Camille would later cause more death and misery in the Virginas due to flash floods from its rains. Then finally the storm was out in the Atlantic Ocean and it finally petered out.

If you are down in Biloxi, MS on Hwy 90 and pass by the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, stop there. Before Katrina, located with the surviving brick bell tower of the church that Camille destroyed is the Hurricane Camille Memorial Wall listing the names of the deceased and missing in polished black granite - now only the memorial remains. All the names are cut in the granite panels that semi-surround a hurricane tableaux. And as you drive westward through Long Beach on Hwy 90, again St. Thomas Catholic Church is rising after being destroyed this time by Katrina. And when you cross the Bay of St. Louis on the way to places like Hollywood casino or the old pre-Interstate way into New Orleans, the bridge that survived Camille has been replaced by a newer bridge because of what Katrina wrought.

What's Online:
The Sun-Herald on the 40th.
Harrison County Library System.
Camille's Fury Remembered.

The Hurricane and Its Impact, 1981, Dr. Robert H. Simpson and Dr. Herbert Riehl, LSU Press, Baton Rouge and London, 398 pages. ISBN 0-8071-0688-7.
Hurricane Camille: Monster Storm of the Gulf Coast, 2004, Philip D Hearn, Universtiry Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 233 pages. ISBN 1-57806-655-7


Mike's America said...

Fortunately hurricanes don't live that long. Though I have seen some old bags of wind stay in Congress for that many years or more.

Anna said...

What is worse than old windbags in Congress, is the old failed ideas some of them cling to.