Hurricane Camille

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Hurricane Camille
Camille as a powerful Category 5 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, on August 16
Meteorological history
FormedAugust 14, 1969 (1969-08-14)
DissipatedAugust 22, 1969 (1969-08-22)
Category 5 major hurricane
1-minute sustained (SSHWS/NWS)
Highest winds175 mph (280 km/h)
Lowest pressure900 mbar (hPa); 26.58 inHg
Overall effects
Fatalities259 total
Damage$1.42 billion (1969 USD)
Areas affectedCuba, Yucatán Peninsula, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Southern United States, Midwestern United States, Eastern Seaboard
IBTrACSEdit this at Wikidata

Part of the 1969 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Camille was a powerful, deadly and destructive Category 5 major hurricane which became the second most intense tropical cyclone on record to strike the United States (behind the 1935 Labor Day hurricane) and is one of just four Category 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S.

The most intense storm of the 1969 Atlantic hurricane season, Camille originated as a tropical depression on August 14, south of Cuba, from a long-tracked tropical wave. Located in a favorable environment for strengthening, the storm quickly intensified into a Category 2 hurricane before striking the western part of Cuba on August 15. Emerging into the Gulf of Mexico, Camille underwent another period of rapid intensification and became a Category 5 hurricane the next day as it moved northward towards Louisiana and Mississippi. Despite weakening slightly on August 17, the hurricane quickly re-intensified back into a Category 5 hurricane before it made landfall a half hour before midnight in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. At peak intensity, the hurricane had peak 1-minute sustained winds of 175 miles per hour (282 km/h) and a minimum pressure of 900 mbar (26.58 inHg), the second-lowest pressure recorded for a U.S. landfall behind the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. As Camille pushed inland, it quickly weakened and was a tropical depression by the time it was over the Ohio Valley. Once it emerged offshore, Camille was able to restrengthen to a strong tropical storm before becoming extratropical on August 22. Camille was absorbed by a frontal storm over the North Atlantic later that day.

Camille caused tremendous damage in its wake and produced a peak official storm surge of 24 feet (7.3 m). It flattened nearly everything along the Mississippi coast and caused additional flooding and deaths inland while crossing the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. In the U.S., Camille killed more than 259 people[1][2] and caused $1.42 billion in damages (equivalent to $11.8 billion in 2023).[3]

Meteorological history

Map plotting the storm's track and intensity, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale
Map key
  Tropical depression (≤38 mph, ≤62 km/h)
  Tropical storm (39–73 mph, 63–118 km/h)
  Category 1 (74–95 mph, 119–153 km/h)
  Category 2 (96–110 mph, 154–177 km/h)
  Category 3 (111–129 mph, 178–208 km/h)
  Category 4 (130–156 mph, 209–251 km/h)
  Category 5 (≥157 mph, ≥252 km/h)
Storm type
triangle Extratropical cyclone, remnant low, tropical disturbance, or monsoon depression

Hurricane Camille originated from a tropical wave that moved off the western coast of Africa on August 5, 1969. It tracked quickly westward along the 15th parallel north;[4] several days later, a tropical disturbance became clearly identifiable on satellite imagery on August 9. By that time, the thunderstorm activity in the disturbance concentrated into a circular area of convection. On the next day, the storm moved through the Lesser Antilles, although there was no evidence of a closed circulation. On August 13, the wave passed near or over the southern coast of Jamaica as its convection spread northeastward through the Bahamas. Subsequently, it began a slower motion to the northwest. It is believed that the tropical wave organized into a tropical depression shortly thereafter, early on August 14, and it became a tropical storm a few hours later. On the morning of August 14, the Hurricane Hunters flew to investigate for a closed circulation near the Bahamas and near the Cayman Islands.[5] The crew observed a developing center in the western Caribbean, and winds had reached tropical storm status. By then, the storm had strengthened into a strong tropical storm with winds of 60 mph (97 km/h), about 50 miles (80 km) west-northwest of Grand Cayman.[5][6]

Upon first being classified as a tropical storm, Camille was located in an area favorable for further strengthening, although initially it slowly intensified. It was located within an area of very light wind shear and an overall warm environment. Additionally, the storm developed strong low-level inflow from the deep southern Caribbean, which continuously brought moisture into the storm.[5] Throughout its duration, it was a small tropical cyclone, although with a radius of gale-force winds spreading 100 miles (160 km) to the north, the storm's thunderstorm area quickly spread over Cuba. As the storm approached the western coast of Cuba, it began rapid deepening, reaching hurricane status and less than 12 hours later attained winds of 110 mph (180 km/h). Prior to landfall, its eye was tracked by radar from Havana; it is estimated the hurricane moved ashore between Cape San Antonio and Guane late on August 15 as a strong Category 2 hurricane. Camille was a small hurricane as it crossed western Cuba, and its winds decreased slightly to 105 mph (169 km/h) over land before it emerged into the Gulf of Mexico.[6]

This New Orleans radar image of Hurricane Camille was taken less than 50 miles from its center on August 17 1969 at 10 p.m. CST

Initially, Hurricane Camille was forecast to turn northeastward toward the Florida panhandle. Instead, it continued northwestward and resumed its rapid intensification trend after leaving Cuba. Its eye contracted to a diameter of less than 8 miles (13 km), and strong rainbands developed around the entire hurricane. Due to the small eye, Hurricane Hunters at first had difficulties in determining the strength; however a flight late on August 16 found a strong Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson scale and recorded a very low pressure of 908 mbar (hPa; 26.82 inHg), with winds estimated at 175 mph (282 km/h).[5] At the time, it was not expected to intensify further.[6] However, a subsequent Hurricane Hunters flight early on August 17 recorded a slightly deeper central pressure of 905 mbar (hPa; 26.73 inHg), at the time the lowest pressure recorded by reconnaissance aircraft. That made Camille the most intense hurricane since the 1935 Labor Day hurricane; currently it is the sixth-most intense Atlantic hurricane, as ranked by lowest pressure. There was little change in the wind speed as such levelled out at 175 mph (282 km/h) during that time.[7][8]

As it continued toward the Gulf Coast of the United States, Camille maintained its small eye, and forecasters continued to anticipate a turn toward Florida.[6] Late on August 17, Camille briefly weakened to a Category 4 storm due to an eyewall replacement cycle; a reconnaissance flight was forced to end its mission early due to a damaged engine.[5] Before they left the storm, the crew recorded a pressure of 919 mbar (hPa; 27.14 inHg) and estimated surface winds at 155 mph (249 km/h), while Camille was located about 100 miles (160 km) southeast of the Mississippi River Delta.[6] There were no subsequent Hurricane Hunter flights, but surface observations recorded later suggested that Camille quickly re-strengthened and regained Category 5 intensity.[7] After passing very close to southeastern Louisiana, Hurricane Camille made landfall at 11:30 CDT in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.[9] Maximum sustained wind speeds near the coastline were estimated to have been about 175 mph (282 km/h), with a minimum central pressure of 900 mbar (hPa; 26.58 inHg) as analyzed by surface data.[5]

The hurricane weakened as it progressed inland, and within 14 hours of moving ashore, Camille weakened to tropical storm status. About 12 hours later, it weakened to tropical depression status, by which time it began a turn to the north and northeast. On August 20, Tropical Depression Camille turned eastward through Kentucky, dropping heavy rainfall in West Virginia and Virginia. Later that day, it emerged into the Atlantic Ocean east of Norfolk, and by that afternoon, as Camille was emerging offshore it regained tropical storm status. Camille accelerated east-northeastward, attaining peak winds of 70 mph (110 km/h) as it interacted with larger Hurricane Debbie to its southeast (although the poor sampling of the region means that it is possible that the storm may have regained hurricane intensity in a location where measurements of wind speed were not taken).[5] Subsequently, Camille began to interact with a frontal storm, causing it to gradually transition into an extratropical cyclone as it entrained cooler air. On August 22, Camille was absorbed by the frontal system to the south of Atlantic Canada.[5][6]


National Hurricane Center Track Forecasts for Camille from western Cuba onward. The system's actual track is marked by the line farthest to the west.

Shortly after Camille formed, the National Hurricane Center advised residents on the Isle of Pines and in western Cuba to prepare for gale-force winds, heavy rains, and rising tides. The agency also recommended small boats to remain in harbor.[6] The threat of the storm prompted officials to evacuate thousands along the western coast of Cuba and on the Isle of Pines; on the island, 10,000 cattle and 6,000 turkeys were moved to safer areas.[10]

As Camille impacted Cuba, small craft were advised not to venture out too far from the coasts of Florida.[11] On August 15, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for a 110 miles (180 km) stretch of land in Florida, between Apalachicola and Fort Walton Beach. The next day, as these hurricane watches were upgraded to a hurricane warning, thousands of people boarded up their homes and evacuated inland. During the afternoon of August 16, the weather bureau ordered that a hurricane watch should be placed in force for the coastline from Biloxi to St Marks, Florida. Later that day, the hurricane watches were upgraded to a hurricane warning for the northwestern Florida coast, from Fort Walton to St Marks.[citation needed]

By Saturday morning, a hurricane watch was issued for the coast from Biloxi eastward. Civil defense organizations in coastal counties went on alert. Keesler Air Force Base and the Naval Construction Battalion Center prepared for the storm. By 5 p.m. on Sunday, a hurricane warning was issued for the coast. This activated the National Guard units. Many refused to believe the reports concerning Camille's intensity that afternoon. Many people living at elevations of 20 feet (6.1 m) above sea level refused to believe they were going to be submerged. The mayor of Gulfport ordered the release of prisoners from the city jail as winds increased at 9 p.m. on Sunday evening, but none would leave.[12]


Making landfall in Waveland, Mississippi, as a Category 5 hurricane,[7] Camille caused damage and destruction across much of the Gulf Coast of the United States. Because it moved quickly through the region, Hurricane Camille dropped only moderate precipitation in most areas. Areas in and around Pass Christian, its point of landfall, reported from 7 to 10 inches (180 to 250 mm).[13] The area of total destruction in Harrison County, Mississippi was 68 square miles (180 km2).[14] The total U.S. estimated cost of damage was $1.42 billion (1969 USD).[3] This made Camille tied (with Hurricane Betsy) as the most expensive hurricane in the United States, up to that point.[15] The storm directly killed 143 people along Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. An additional 153 people perished as a result of catastrophic flooding in Nelson County, Virginia and other areas nearby. In all, 8,931 people were injured, 5,662 homes were destroyed, and 13,915 homes experienced major damage, with many of the fatalities being coastal residents who had refused to evacuate.

Caribbean and Offshore Gulf of Mexico

As a developing tropical storm, Camille brought rain showers to Grand Cayman, although there were no reports of damage.[6] Stations in Cuba on the outer fringes of the storm reported winds of 50 mph (80 km/h). East of where it moved ashore, the city of Guane recorded winds of 92 mph (148 km/h), although no wind reports were taken in the landfall location. The hurricane produced up to 10 inches (250 mm) near Guane, as well as on the Isle of Pines.[6] On the Isle of Pines, the storm inflicted damage to about 100 houses.[10] Throughout Pinar del Río Province, Camille caused heavy damage,[16] primarily from river flooding;[17] about 20,000 people were left homeless in the province. Strong winds downed trees and power lines, which caused power outages eastward through the capital city of Havana. Initially, the government reported no casualties from the storm.[16] Subsequent research indicated the hurricane killed five people in the country during its passage, and damage was estimated at $5 million (1969 USD).[18]

In the open Gulf of Mexico, the hurricane produced wave heights of at least 70 feet (21 m), as measured by Shell Oil Company. Along the ocean floor, the storm created mudslides which lowered the ocean floor; its combination with strong waves and winds destroyed three oil platforms, including one that at the time was the deepest oil well. Property damages to the offshore oil industry were initially estimated at $100 million (1969 USD).[19]


The eastbound lanes of heavily traveled United States U.S. Highway 90 suffered broken pavement during Hurricane Camille, which halted traffic

In Louisiana, the barometric pressure fell to 27.80 inches of mercury (941 hPa) at Garden Island. Winds gusted to 125 miles per hour (201 km/h) at Slidell as their pressure sank to 28.75 inches of mercury (974 hPa) on August 19. Almost total destruction was seen from Venice to Buras. Ostrica Lock measured a storm surge of 16 feet (4.9 m). Water overwashed U.S. Highway 90 to a depth of 10 feet (3.0 m).[20] The highest rainfall report from the state was 5.23 inches (133 mm) from Slidell.[21] Camille caused about $322 million (1969 dollars) of damage in Louisiana.[5] The storm turned just in time to avoid a direct hit to the City of New Orleans, which was devastated just four years prior by Hurricane Betsy. The worst effects in New Orleans proper were flooding from some levees, particularly in the lowest lying areas, including the Lower Ninth Ward, which suffered the most severe flooding during Betsy.[citation needed]

In addition, Camille forced the Mississippi River to flow backwards for a river-distance of 125 miles (from its mouth to a point north of New Orleans). The river further backed up for an additional 120 miles (190 km), to a point north of Baton Rouge.[22]


Ships beached in Gulfport, Mississippi.

In Mississippi, Camille was significantly worse than Hurricane Betsy. Electricity went out during Camille's approach to the Mississippi coastline. United States Highway 90 flooded as a large storm surge overtopped seawalls, leaving a barge along the highway in Gulfport. Fires consumed coastal communities, with the exceptions of Bay St. Louis and Waveland. Camille destroyed the antebellum Trinity Episcopal church in Pass Christian, taking 15 lives. The Dixie White House, where President Woodrow Wilson and his family once stayed, was badly damaged. In Biloxi, Mississippi, the storm surge reached the second floor of the structure[which?].[12] The highest rainfall total recorded was 10.06 inches (256 mm) at the Mississippi Test Facility.[21] Mississippi received the worst of the damage. Upon making landfall, Camille produced a 24 foot (7.3 m) storm surge. Along Mississippi's entire shore and for some three to four blocks inland, the destruction was nearly complete. The worst-hit areas were Clermont Harbor, Lakeshore, Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Long Beach, and the beachfront of Gulfport, Mississippi City, and Biloxi. One of Frank Lloyd Wright's waterfront houses for W. L. Fuller, in Pass Christian, was completely destroyed.[23]

More than 11 inches (280 mm) of rain occurred in Hancock County, and most low-lying areas were flooded with up to 15 feet (4.6 m) of water. U.S. Highway 90, which is close to the shore, was broken up in many areas, and sand and debris blocked much of it. Totals say that 3,800 homes and businesses were completely destroyed. As Camille came ashore, it passed over Ship Island, off the coast of Mississippi; Camille's strong storm surge and torrential rains literally split the island in two: the body of water between West Ship Island and East Ship Island is now called "Camille's Cut". Camille had significant ecological effects in the Gulf Coast region. A barrier island chain off the coast of Mississippi and 70% of Dauphin Island were completely inundated by the storm's surge.[24] Camille caused about $950 million (1969 dollars) of damage in Mississippi.[5]

Hurricane Party

Richelieu Apartments before Camille
Richelieu Apartments after Camille

An Urban legend about Camille states that 24 residents of the Richelieu Manor Apartments in Pass Christian, Mississippi, which was in the path of the eyewall, held a "hurricane party" as the hurricane made landfall, and that all but one died. In actuality, there was no party; 23 people are known to have stayed in the apartments during the hurricane, eight of whom died despite taking all precautions they knew in order to secure the building. The tale of the party, and the lone survivor, apparently originated with survivor Mary Ann Gerlach,[12] who also told her story in a 1989 episode of Nova. Another survivor, Ben Duckworth, has expressed irritation at the story. "There was no hurricane party," Duckworth reiterated in 2001. "We were exhausted from boarding up windows and helping the police move cars. We were too tired to party. I can't tell you why that story persists, or why people didn't put two and two together. I guess the hurricane party makes a good story."[25][26]

Alabama and Florida

Alabama also experienced damage along U.S. Highway 90: 26,000 homes and over 1,000 businesses were wiped out completely across the state of Alabama. Camille's large circulation also resulted in a 3-to-5-foot (0.91 to 1.52 m) storm surge in Apalachicola, Florida. The highest rainfall report received within Alabama was 6.52 inches (166 mm) two miles northeast of Fairhope.[21] Camille caused about $8 million (1969 dollars) of damage in Alabama.[5] Places farther east across the western Florida panhandle saw lesser rains, as 4.16 inches (106 mm) was measured at Pensacola Naval Air Station.[27]

Ohio Valley and West Virginia

Camille Storm Total Rainfall

Camille caused moderate rainfall in Tennessee and Kentucky of between 3 and 5 inches (130 mm),[28] helping to relieve a drought in the area, yet in West Virginia, there was flash flooding which destroyed 36 houses and 12 trailers, a total of three quarters of a million dollars in damage.[29]


Because the hurricane was expected to quickly dissipate over land, few were prepared for the flash flooding.[30] Arriving in Virginia on the evening of August 19, Camille was no longer a hurricane, but it carried high amounts of moisture and contained sufficient strength and low pressure to pull in additional moisture.

A widespread area of western and central Virginia received over 8 inches (200 mm) of rain from Camille's remains, leading to significant flooding across the state. A total of 153 people lost their lives from blunt trauma sustained during mountain slides, related to the flash flooding, not drowning.[31] More than 123 of these deaths, including 21 members of one family, the Huffmans, were in Nelson County. Seven victims of the hurricane in Nelson County remain unidentified, as well as one in Albemarle County.[32] Avalanches occurred on hillsides with a slope greater than 35 percent.[31] In Nelson County, the number of deaths amounted to over one percent of the county's population.[33] The worst of the damage was reported in Massies Mill, Woods Mill, Roseland, Bryant, Tyro, Montebello, Lovingston, Norwood, Rockfish, and along the Davis and Muddy creeks.[31] The James and Tye rivers crested well above flood stage in many areas, including a record high of 41.3 feet (12.6 m) at Columbia. Hurricane Camille caused more than $140 million of damage (1969 dollars) in Virginia.[5][6] Camille was considered one of the worst natural disasters in central Virginia's recorded history.[31]

Flooding damage at Howardsville, Virginia; the bridge formerly carried Virginia Route 626 over the Rockfish River.

The storm dropped torrential rainfall of 12 to 20 inches (300 to 510 mm), with a maximum of 27 inches (690 mm).[28] Most of the rainfall occurred in Virginia during a 3–5 hour period on August 19–20. More than five inches of rain fell near the North Fork of the Tye River in only half an hour with the grounds already saturated from previous rains.[30] Many rivers flooded across the state, with the worst being the James River in Richmond with a peak crest of 28.6 feet (8.7 m). Many rivers in Virginia and West Virginia set records for peak flood stages, causing numerous mudslides along mountainsides. In the mountain slopes between Charlottesville and Lynchburg, more than 26 inches (660 mm) of rain fell in 12 hours, but the worst was in Nelson County where 27 inches (690 mm) fell. There, rainfall was so heavy that reports were received of birds drowning in trees, cows floating down the Hatt Creek and of survivors having to cup hands around their mouth and nose in order to breathe through the deluge. Though the official rainfall was recorded as 27 inches, unofficial estimates are much greater. Some estimate that more than 40 inches of rain fell at Davis Creek. Most gauges were washed away; however, it was reported that an empty 55-gallon drum that was not even in the center of the heaviest rainfall had 31 inches of water in it after Camille passed.[34] "So much rain fell in such a short time in Nelson County that, according to the National Weather Service at the time, it was 'the probable maximum rainfall which meteorologists compute to be theoretically possible.'"[35]

The ensuing flash floods and mudslides killed 153 people. In Nelson County alone, 133 bridges washed out, while in some places entire communities were under water.[29]

The major flooding that occurred downstream cut off all communication between Richmond and the Shenandoah Valley. Waynesboro on the South River saw eight feet of water downtown, and Buena Vista had more than five feet.

Throughout Virginia, Camille destroyed 313 houses, 71 trailers, and 430 farm buildings. The hurricane affected 3,765 families in the area, and total damage in the state amounted to $140.8 million (1969 USD, $747 million 2005 USD).[36][30][37][38]


Cost of damage by region
Region Damage
(1969 USD)
Cuba $5 million[18]
Gulf of Mexico $100 million[19]
Louisiana $322 million
Mississippi $950 million
Alabama $8 million
West Virginia $750,000
Virginia $140 million
Total $1.57 billion
($1.42 billion in the U.S.)[5]
Damage from Camille

In the days after the storm struck Cuba, the government deployed medical teams to affected regions to provide typhoid vaccine shots. Officials noted the potential for the spread of disease, due to flooding from Camille as well as previously wet conditions.[10]

The response after the storm involved many federal, state, and local agencies and volunteer organizations. The main organization for coordinating the federal response to the disaster was the Office of Emergency Preparedness, which provided $76 million (1969 USD, $403 million 2005 USD)[36] to administer and coordinate disaster relief programs. Food and shelter were available the day after the storm. On August 19, parts of Mississippi and Louisiana were declared major disaster areas and became eligible for federal disaster relief funds.[39] President Richard Nixon ordered 1450 regular troops and 800 United States Army Engineers into the area to bring tons of food, vehicles, and aircraft.[12] Large organizations contributing to the relief effort included the Federal Power Commission, which helped fully return power to affected areas by November 25, 1969. The Coast Guard (then under the Department of Transportation), Air Force, Army, Army Corps of Engineers, Navy Seabees, and Marine Corps all helped with evacuations, search and rescue, clearing debris, and distribution of food. The Department of Defense contributed $34 million (1969 USD, $180 million 2005 USD)[36] and 16,500 military troops overall to the recovery. The Department of Health provided $4 million towards medicine, vaccines and other health related needs.[39]

On Monday, the Air National Guard and those at Keesler Air Force Base airlifted patients to Jackson and other more inland locations. Volunteers searched for those injured and dead, as well as helping refugees. When many of the evacuees returned by Tuesday, Governor John Bell Williams declared martial law, blocking highways into the area and leading to a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. The governor also opened Camp Shelby, dormitories within the University of Southern Mississippi, and the Robert E. Lee Hotel to serve as shelters for those who lost homes. Sections of Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian were evacuated. Survivors were found for days after the storm, with 35 trapped by high water north of Bay St. Louis rescued on Thursday. Army engineers disposed of 25 tons of dead animals, mostly cows, during the week following Camille. One week after the storm, Keesler-based airplanes sprayed malathion at low altitudes to kill the thriving insect population. Martial law would be lifted on August 27. The federal and state military presence would continue for several weeks. During the evening of September 8, President Nixon visited the Biloxi-Gulfport Regional Airport and gave a speech to elevate the spirits of local residents struggling with the storm's aftermath. During the rebuilding process, stricter building codes were enforced by local governments. In 1973, hurricane hunters and their associated reconnaissance aircraft relocated to Keesler Air Force Base when their previous headquarters at Ramey, Puerto Rico, closed.[12]

A large, antebellum mansion destroyed by the high winds and storm surge.

Long-term redevelopment was overseen by the Department of Commerce, which contributed $30 million (1969 USD, $159 million 2005 USD)[36] towards planned and coordinated redevelopment of affected areas. NOAA Weather Radio was expanded to coastal locations during the 1970s in the wake of Camille based upon recommendations made by the Department of Commerce in September 1969.[40]

The devastation of Camille inspired the implementation of the Saffir–Simpson scale. After the storm, many Gulf Coast residents commented that hurricane warnings were not clear enough in conveying the expected intensity of the coming storm. The Saffir–Simpson scale offered a much more concise statement of storm intensity than barometric pressure and wind-speed measurements, and veterans of previous hurricanes could analogize the power of the approaching storm to those they had experienced.[41]

In a 1999 report on Hurricane Camille sponsored by the NOAA Coastal Services Center, the authors concluded: "With Camille, the preparations for the event and the response were based on processes put in place long before the storm made landfall. Coordination between government agencies as well as with state and local officials was enhanced because of preexisting plans."[39]

Due to the high death toll and major destruction in much of the Southern United States, the name Camille was retired after the 1969 season, and will never again be used for an Atlantic basin tropical cyclone.[42] The name Cindy was selected to replace Camille in 1973.[43] However, the 4‑year lists were replaced in 1971 by a new series of lists running though 1980.[44]


Most severe landfalling Atlantic hurricanes in the United States
Based on size and intensity for total points on the Hurricane Severity Index[45]
Rank Hurricane Year Intensity Size Total
1  4  Carla 1961 17 25 42
2  4  Betsy 1965 15 25 40
3  5  Camille 1969 22 14 36
 4  Opal 1995 11 25 36
 5  Katrina 2005 13 23 36
6  3  Audrey 1957 17 16 33
 5  Wilma 2005 12 21 33
8  5  Ivan 2004 12 20 32
9  4  Ike 2008 10 20 30
10  5  Andrew 1992 16 11 27
Strongest U.S. landfalling tropical cyclones
Rank Name‡ Season Wind speed
mph km/h
1 "Labor Day" 1935 185 295
2 Karen 1962 175 280
Camille 1969
Yutu 2018
5 Andrew 1992 165 270
6 "Okeechobee" 1928 160 260
Michael 2018
8 Maria 2017 155 250
9 "Last Island" 1856 150 240
"Indianola" 1886
"Florida Keys" 1919
"Freeport" 1932
Charley 2004
Laura 2020
Ida 2021
Ian 2022
Source: Hurricane Research Division[46]
†Strength refers to maximum sustained wind speed upon striking land.
‡Systems prior to 1950 were not officially named.

Most intense landfalling tropical cyclones in the United States
Intensity is measured solely by central pressure
Rank System Season Landfall pressure
1 "Labor Day" 1935 892 mbar (hPa)
2 Camille 1969 900 mbar (hPa)
Yutu 2018
4 Michael 2018 919 mbar (hPa)
5 Katrina 2005 920 mbar (hPa)
Maria 2017
7 Andrew 1992 922 mbar (hPa)
8 "Indianola" 1886 925 mbar (hPa)
9 "Guam" 1900 926 mbar (hPa)
10 "Florida Keys" 1919 927 mbar (hPa)
Source: HURDAT,[8] Hurricane
Research Division[46]

Camille produced the sixth lowest official sea level pressure ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, at 900 millibars (27 inHg).[8] This was also its landfalling pressure; the only hurricane to hit the United States with a lower pressure at landfall was the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.[7][47] A reconnaissance flight indicated a pressure of 901 millibars (26.6 inHg),[48] but this pressure was later corrected in 1969 by researchers to 919 mb (27.14 inHg).[7] 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 190 mph (310 km/h) at landfall, with gusts exceeding 230 mph (370 km/h),[7][48] although a reanalysis in April 2014 concluded that Camille had maximum winds of 175 mph (282 km/h) rather than the 190 mph reading used previously.[49] Before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Camille likely had the highest storm surge measured in the United States, at over 24 feet (7.3 m).[50]

Comparisons to Hurricane Katrina

Comparison of Hurricanes Camille (left) and Katrina on satellite imagery

Although Hurricane Camille and Hurricane Katrina took different paths, both reached the same section of the coast of Mississippi with similar destructive effects. Camille intensified more rapidly than Katrina, and unlike Katrina, Camille re-intensified a second time and maintained status as a Category 5 hurricane until landfall. Both hurricanes shared the common aspect of undergoing periods of rapid intensification.[51] The size of Camille's radius of maximum wind was less than one-third that of Katrina, more similar to the intense but small Hurricane Andrew. Also unlike Katrina, Camille caused little damage in New Orleans, Louisiana, though Camille itself just barely missed the city.[52] The area of hurricane-force winds within Camille was just over two-thirds the size of Hurricane Katrina. Both storms were moving at a similar forward motion at the time of landfall. Although Camille's wind speed at landfall was higher, Katrina's storm surge exceeded Camille's storm surge at all known locations due to its greater size.[53] Both hurricanes' names were retired.

Naming background

In the 1960s, there were four lists of feminine given names used for Atlantic hurricanes, with each list being used every fourth year.[54] The practice of retiring hurricane names was meant to be temporary, with the guideline that a name be retired for ten years. When the name Carla was retired in 1961 it was replaced on the 1965 list with Carol, a name retired in 1954 when its namesake devastated New England. Since over a decade had passed, Carol was eligible for reuse. Carol entered the 1969 list, but scientists from the National Hurricane Research Laboratory (NHRL) asked the naming committee in January 1969 to permanently retire Carol, Edna, and Hazel since papers were still being written about the storms. The committee agreed but needed a replacement "C" name. John Hope's daughter Camille was involved in an advanced science and math program in high school and had carried out a required independent research project. John Hope asked Banner Miller to mentor her in her investigation of hurricanes and long-term atmospheric trends. Miller was impressed by her project and suggested her name for the list. "We kept it quiet for many years," Camille said in a circa 2014 interview.[43]

In popular culture


  • A Lady Called Camille (1971), created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shortly after the hurricane, shows preparation and recovery efforts organized largely by Wade Guice, the former Harrison County Civil Defense Director whose wife, Julia, served as Biloxi Civil Defense Director at the time. The couple are seen at their posts at the outset of the film. The film also contains brief footage of the ill-fated Richilieu Apartments after the hurricane, where a Civil Defense worker had attempted to persuade residents to evacuate. The film is accessible in the Internet Archive FedFlix collection.[55]
  • The short film Camille and the Seabees (1971) is available for free viewing and download at the Internet Archive.
  • Hurricane, a 1974 ABC made-for-TV disaster movie starring Frank Sutton and Larry Hagman. It contained references to the Richilieu Apartments and the Hurricane Hunter plane that flew into the eye of Camille and lost an engine, along with news footage from the hurricane.[56]



  • Tom Clancy's novel Without Remorse (1993) opens with the demolition of an oil rig damaged during Camille.[58]
  • Camille has an important role in the plot of John Grisham's novel The Boys from Biloxi. The book's protagonist begins his career a lawyer when persistently suing insurance companies which try to avoid paying for homes destroyed by Camille. Having established his reputation in this way, he eventually gets elected as District Attorney - leading to his head-on confrontation with organized crime which is the novel's main theme.

Stage productions

  • Beth Henley's play Crimes of the Heart (1979) takes place in Hazlehurst, Mississippi and is set five years after Hurricane Camille.[59] While the hurricane is rarely mentioned in the script, it is cited as the cause of Doc Porter's limp and the reason Meg Magrath has been shunned by most of the town. The play was originally produced by the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Inc. in February 1979 and received its New York premiere at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1980.[60][61]
  • In 2008, Lynchburg, Virginia-based Endstation Theatre Company (then based in Amherst, Virginia) premiered an original play, The Bluest Water: A Hurricane Camille Story (by playwright Jason Chimonides), as part of its inaugural Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival on the campus of Sweet Briar College.[62] While the play was partly historical fiction (featuring contrived characters experiencing or remembering the actual events of Hurricane Camille), many characters' stories or lines of dialogue were composites of true accounts or testimonials from Nelson County (most notably Massies Mill, the Tye River, and Davis Creek) and the surrounding areas. The play was revived in the festival's second year (2009), in conjunction with the Nelson County Historical Society's observation of the 40th anniversary of Camille.[63]


  • In the October 2, 1991, episode of the NBC series Quantum Leap, titled "Hurricane" (Season 4, Episode 3), the main character, Sam Beckett, leaps into Archie Necaise, a small-town sheriff in the middle of Hurricane Camille. He must keep his host's girlfriend from being killed in the storm.[64]
  • In the 1978 documentary series When Havoc Struck presented by Glenn Ford, one episode was titled 'Hurricane Camille'.[65]

See also


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  2. ^ Control, United States Congress House Committee on Public Works Subcommittee on Flood (1970). Disaster Assistance Legislation: Hearings, Ninety-first Congress, Second Session, on H.R. 17518 and Related Bills ... July 28, 29, 30, 1970. U.S. Government Printing Office.
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Further reading

Historical Hurricanes

External links

Preceded by Costliest Atlantic hurricanes on Record
1969 (Tied with Betsy)
Succeeded by