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The 53rd Anniversary of Hurricane Camille…A Class 5 At Landfall and One in every of The Most Devastating Storms in US Historical past – ?


Paul Dorian

Hurricane Camille on August 16, 1969. Picture captured by NASA’s ATS III satellite tv for pc.

Overview

1969 was a exceptional 12 months and will probably be lengthy remembered because the 12 months when man first walked on the moon, the Miracle Mets shocked the sports activities world, and the Woodstock Competition occurred in upstate New York.  It is going to even be remembered because the 12 months when a serious hurricane –Hurricane Camille – struck america as a class 5 storm and the second most intense tropical cyclone on document (solely the 1935 Labor Day hurricane had a decrease central strain at landfall).  Hurricane Camille made landfall in Mississippi and wreaked havoc from the Gulf States to as far inland because the Mid-Atlantic with widespread flooding, document rainfall, and it price the lives of a number of a whole bunch of individuals alongside its path of destruction.

A chart by NOAA from 1969 with the trail of Hurricane Camille; Credit score NOAA

Growth stage

The primary satellite tv for pc picture was taken on April 1, 1960 (TIROS) and climate forecasters knew that among the finest makes use of of this newly launched device can be the power to observe tropical waves out over the open waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  Certainly, with the utilization of satellite tv for pc imagery, forecasters first famous a tropical wave off of the African coast as early as August 5th, 1969 and this wave moved westward out over the open tropical Atlantic.  Satellite tv for pc imagery then confirmed the system crossing over the Leeward Islands by the tenth of August nonetheless with no obvious circulation, however that started to alter a number of days later.  By the 14th of August, Air Power reconnaissance plane despatched into the disturbance picked up a central strain of 999 millibars together with 55 mph floor winds, and satellite tv for pc imagery confirmed rather more in the way in which of circulation with quite a few bands of heavy rainfall.  It was at this level that the tropical system inherited its title of “Camille” having reached tropical storm standing.

Camille didn’t stay a tropical storm for lengthy because it had favorable situations for intensification by the center of the month of August in 1969.  The storm moved slowly northwestward and its central strain continued to drop. By August 15th, Camille had reached hurricane standing because it headed in direction of Cuba with winds gusting as much as 115 mph. Camille handed over western Cuba as a class 1 hurricane and produced 92 mph winds and 10 inches of rain. 

By the 16th of August, Camille had handed Cuba and pushed over the nice and cozy waters of the Gulf of Mexico which helped to proceed its intensification.  One other Air Power reconnaissance plane was flown into the attention of Camille right now and a central strain of 908 millibars was recorded utilizing dropwindsondes.  Hurricane Camille was now headed proper in direction of the northern Gulf coastal area in a north-northwestward course at 14 mph and it was being known as a “small however harmful” storm by the US Climate Bureau.  Hurricane watches on today had been put up stretching over 400 miles from Biloxi, Mississippi to St. Marks, Florida.

Hurricane watches had been in impact on August sixteenth throughout a large portion of the northern Gulf coast as Camille crossed over the nice and cozy waters of the Gulf of Mexico; Supply NOAA/NWS

Landfall

On August 17th, Hurricane Camille reached class 5 standing and was situated about 250 miles south of Cell, Alabama.  Gulf states had been now in disaster mode in preparation for landfall in what had change into a monster hurricane.  The final Air Power reconnaissance plane readings had been made on the afternoon of the 17th and a central strain of 901 millibars was measured together with a most floor wind gust of over 200 mph. There was just one different time {that a} central strain had been measured this low, within the 1935 Labor Day hurricane which ended up crossing over the Florida Keys between Miami and Key West.  As landfall approached within the northern Gulf coastal area, the easterly winds forward of Camille generated a storm surge via the marshes of southeastern Louisiana. Meteorologists warned that “by no means earlier than has a populated space been threatened by a storm as extraordinarily harmful as Camille”. A mass evacuation emptied the coastal cities all alongside the Gulf coast and people who stayed seemingly perished through the storm (there have been rumors of “hurricane events”, however there weren’t any survivors to recall them). 

The monitor of Hurricane Camille together with up to date wind speeds; Courtesy NOAA, ESRI, Earthstar Geographics

Hurricane Camille made landfall on August 17th at about 10:30PM (CT) passing over Clermont Harbor, Waveland and Bay St. Louis within the state of Mississippi.  In 1969, it was solely the second class 5 storm to make landfall within the US within the record-keeping period. Quite a few climate stations that had been imagined to document strain and winds had been destroyed through the storm and most of the information are solely estimates and vary as much as 200 mph in wind gusts.  Most floor winds had been calculated to be close to 201.5 mph close to the middle of Camille on the afternoon of August seventeenth. The very best precise measurement on a wind instrument of 172 mph was discovered on an Esterline Angus wind pace recorder and was earlier than the instrument gave out resulting from a paper jam.  Most sustained winds won’t ever be identified for sure. Catastrophic flooding occurred from Louisiana to Florida with the tide reaching a most of 24.2 toes above imply sea stage in some spots.

Photograph of the flooding from the College of Colorado/CIRES 30th anniversary retrospective

Devastation far inland with catastrophic flooding in Virginia

Camille weakened to a tropical despair because it handed via northern Mississippi and into western Tennessee.  It then took a flip to the northeast via central Kentucky after which eastward via excessive southern West Virginia and southern Virginia.  By the nineteenth of August, atmospheric situations had been coming collectively for excessive rainfall and native geographic options had been enhancing probabilities for catastrophic flooding within the japanese slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains – however few had been ready for what was about to happen.  Particularly, the stays of Camille had been transferring into an space the place there was tropical air in place together with an current backdoor chilly entrance on the floor and an intensifying jet streak aloft. On this a part of Virginia, there’s a slender valley with steep ridges and an upsloping wind amplified rainfall quantities. The mixture of this extraordinarily unstable ambiance and native geographic options was leading to historic and lethal flooding situations. 

Rainfall quantities had been disastrous throughout the northern Gulf coast and within the japanese slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains; Credit score NOAA

Rainfall quantities of greater than 26 inches occurred within the mountain slopes between Charlottesville and Lynchburg, Virginia in a 12 hour interval.  Nelson County, Virginia recorded 27 inches of rain with studies that the rain was so heavy there have been birds drowning in bushes.  [A post-storm “reanalysis” by NOAA suggests over 30 inches of rain fell in as little as eight hours in some spots].  Survivors recall an evening between the 19th and 20th of August that was crammed with thunderstorm after thunderstorm and lightning so fierce “it was like daylight and the lightning didn’t flash, the sky simply actually stayed lit”.  A complete of practically 3800 landslides had been calculated inside Nelson County, Virginia alone utilizing LiDAR scans and 123 of the 153 fatalities within the state throughout this storm occurred on this specific county. After Camille, the panorama had modified a lot that topographical maps had been out of date.  To today, hillsides nonetheless stay naked with uncovered rock the place mudslides ravaged and stripped the forest away.  The rainfall tripled the state of Virginia’s document and has not been damaged since. (Credit score to Jason Elliott (NWS, Sterling, VA) for a lot of the knowledge on Camille and its impression on Nelson County, Virginia).

Hurricane Camille was the second most intense landfalling hurricane within the US when it comes to central strain; Credit score NOAA

Remaining Notes

Hurricane Camille will at all times be remembered as probably the most devastating storms in US historical past and one among solely 4 class 5 hurricanes to strike the US.  Along with the Hurricane Camille and the 1935 Labor Day hurricane, there have been two different class 5 hurricanes to make landfall within the US and each occurred after 1969.  Hurricane Andrew struck the southeastern a part of Florida in August of 1992 and Hurricane Michael made landfall in October of 2018 throughout the panhandle area of Florida. Within the case of Michael, class 5 standing didn’t come till months later when a “reanalysis” by NOAA elevated its winds by 5 mph at landfall close to Mexico Seaside and Tyndall Air Power Base, Florida in comparison with the unique operational estimate and this enhance pushed the storm into class 5 territory.

Meteorologist Paul Dorian
Arcfield
arcfieldweather.com

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