51 years ago: Hurricane Camille ravages MS, AL

1 of only 4 category 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the continental U.S.

51 years ago: Hurricane Camille ravages MS, AL
Hurricane Camille reached category 5 strength in the Gulf of Mexico in 1969. (Source: WSFA 12 News/NOAA)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - 51 years ago one of the most powerful hurricanes on record made landfall along the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Camille was a monstrous and exceptionally dangerous category 5 storm as it made landfall near Waveland and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, on the night of August 17-18, 1969.

Hurricane Camille is the 2nd-strongest hurricane to make landfall in the continental United States.
Hurricane Camille is the 2nd-strongest hurricane to make landfall in the continental United States. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Camille was packing estimated sustained winds of 175 mph at the time of landfall. The minimum pressure was a remarkably low 900 millibars.

These statistics solidify Camille as the 2nd-strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in the continental United States.

Hurricane Camille formed just west of Jamaica and tracked into the Ohio Valley before turning east.
Hurricane Camille formed just west of Jamaica and tracked into the Ohio Valley before turning east. (Source: WSFA 12 News/NOAA)

Camille was also just one of four category 5 hurricanes to ever make landfall in the Lower 48! You can see a radar loop of Camille as it made its way towards the Gulf Coast below.

The storm formed just west of Jamaica on August 14th before rapidly intensifying into a major hurricane while moving northward through the Gulf of Mexico. During its trek north, the forecast for Camille continued to call for a turn to the northeast. This forecast continuously put the Florida Panhandle and even Alabama in the “cone of uncertainty” that we’re familiar with today.

However, the northeastward turn never happened, and Camille headed right for coastal Mississippi.

Incredible storm surge on the order of 15-25 feet devastated a good portion of the Mississippi shoreline. Water rises along the Alabama and western Florida Panhandle reached 4 to nearly 10 feet above astronomical tide. This led to significant damage along Alabama’s coast, especially in Mobile County and Dauphin Island.

Significant storm surge and wind damage occurred along Alabama's coast from Hurricane Camille.
Significant storm surge and wind damage occurred along Alabama's coast from Hurricane Camille. (Source: WSFA 12 News/NWS Mobile)

While surge-related impacts were substantial and deadly, there was also widespread wind damage. Hurricane-force wind gusts were measured in both Mississippi and far southwestern Alabama.

Per the National Weather Service in Mobile: “Damage consisted of roof damage, partial destruction of buildings, fallen trees and washed out roads across Mobile and Baldwin Counties in southwest Alabama and Stone and George Counties in southeast Mississippi.”

Hurricane Camille killed 256 people from the Gulf Coast to Virginia, and caused nearly $10 billion in damage in 2019 USD.
Hurricane Camille killed 256 people from the Gulf Coast to Virginia, and caused nearly $10 billion in damage in 2019 USD. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Crop damage was another aspect of Camille. Mississippi’s crop loss was extensive. For Alabama, the NWS in Mobile says significant crop damage was limited to Mobile, Baldwin and Washington counties.

By the time all was said and done, Hurricane Camille caused the equivalent of roughly $9.9 billion in 2019 USD. The storm claimed the lives of 256 people from the Gulf Coast to Virginia. And as a result of the fatalities and damage done, Camille was retired as an Atlantic Basin tropical cyclone name.

Archived photos from NOAA can be viewed here.

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