On August 17, 1969, more than a half a century ago, Hurricane Camille slammed into the Mississippi coast, the storm still remains one of the most powerful and costly hurricanes on record to make landfall in the United States. Camille was the second-most-intense hurricane to hit the U.S. and remains one of only 4 category 5 hurricanes to strike the mainland U.S. The storm resulted in at least 259 fatalities and caused nearly $1.4 billion in damages at the time, which equates to more than $10 billion 2021 dollars. The hurricane formed in the Cayman Islands on Aug. 14 and continued to intensify rapidly before making landfall on Aug. 17, 1969, near Waveland, Mississippi. "Most hurricanes weaken as they approach landfall, but Camille is the exception," AccuWeather Forensic Meteorologist Steve Wistar explained. "That's unusual." Camille's intensity at landfall was 26.5 inches of mercury making it the second-strongest hurricane to make landfall in the continental U.S., exceeded only by 1935's Labor Day hurricane that ravaged the Florida Keys. The storm was slightly stronger than Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Michael. The storm caused a devastating 24.6-foot storm surge, the greatest for the U.S. until Hurricane Katrina, and winds gusted to more than 170 mph along the coast. However, the actual maximum sustained winds of Hurricane Camille are not known as the hurricane destroyed all the wind-recording instruments in the landfall area. A number of residents along the Gulf coast underestimated just how powerful this hurricane was becoming and either lost their life or suffered injuries. “It’s unlikely that those who stayed had any idea that a Category 5 storm was coming,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Dale Mohler said, adding that the government did not forecast hurricane categories at the time. It wasn't until the 1973 hurricane season that Saffir-Simpson scale was available to the public. Camille was a two-part disaster, as the storm's deadly impacts affected both coastal and inland areas. Following Camille's landfall, the storm weakened as it moved inland over the next several days. However, the slow-moving system wreaked havoc on the mid-Atlantic, especially Virginia. In Virginia, the storm dumped more than 27 inches of rain. With most of the rain falling in three to four hours in the southwestern mountains of Virginia, more than 100 people died due to disastrous flooding and landslides. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina eclipsed Camille as the most destructive hurricane ever to strike Mississippi's Gulf coast.
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