Gulf Coast, MS Hurricane CAMILLE Eyes Coast, Aug 1969
CAMILLE EYES FLORIDA COAST
SECOND MOST POWERFUL STORM THIS CENTURY.
Panama City, Fla. (UPI) -- Hurricane Camille stalled south of Florida's populous Gulf Coast Saturday and gathered her fury into 150 mile per hour winds, making her suddenly the second most powerful hurricane of the century.
A hurricane hunter plane flew into the "tight little hurricane" and reported winds of more than 150 m.p.h. and a barometric pressure of 26.81 at the center of its 10-mile-wide eye, the National Hurricane Center in Miami reported.
"This makes it second in intensity only to the 1935 Labor Day hurricane that hit the Florida Keys," said DR. ROBERT H. SIMPSON, chief of the hurricane center.
The 1935 hurricane smashed across the Keys with winds estimated at more than 200 m.p.h. and killed 376 persons.
"Hurricane Camille is especially dangerous near its center," SIMPSON said. "If it maintains this intensity, something is going to get bad hurt when it goes ashore."
The sudden intensification of the hurricane brought it to a complete halt in its forward movement. It was located about 360 miles south of Panama City late Saturday.
Beachfront businesses began boarding up during the early afternoon, although skies were still clear in advance of the approaching storm. Some 250 aircraft were evacuated from the Pensacola Naval Air Station complex and flown inland to Meridian, Miss.
Tourists and local residents rushed to buy storm supplies and the Red Cross sent 26 workers and nine mobile unit disaster vans into the area. They were to be deployed along the Florida Panhandle, as far west as Mobile, Ala.
"Although we are saying the highest winds are 150 miles an hour, they could well be in excess of that," SIMPSON cautioned. At last report, hurricane force winds of 75 m.p.h. and higher fanned out 40 miles from the center. The width of the 1935 Labor Day storm was only 35 miles.
Delta Democrat-Times Greenville Mississippi 1969-08-17
CAMILLE KILLS 14 AND SMASHES COAST.
DIES OUT IN NORTH MISSISSIPPI.
Gulfport, Miss. (UPI) -- Hurricane Camille shrieked across the Gulf Coast early today with 190-mile per hour winds and flood tides, laying waste to entire cities and killing at least 14 persons.
Two Mississippi towns -- Bay St. Louis and Waveland -- were out of touch with the outside world, but were reported besieged by fires that threatened their business districts.
Countless persons were injured when Camille, the strongest hurricane ever recorded by man, slammed into a 100-mile stretch of the Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana coast. Damage was estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
"We have at least 10 dead in Biloxi and we haven't even begun to check," said Mayor DANNY GULCE. "It's just terrible. There's millions of dollars in damage."
Fire trucks raced from New Orleans toward Bay St. Louis. Only 35 miles from New Orleans, Bay St. Louis was without normal communications and most roads leading into the scenic city were closed to traffic.
The storm passed a few miles east of Jackson, causing relatively minor property damage in the city and neighboring communities, then continued to weaken as it moved toward northern Mississippi. At 11 a.m. the center was about 50 miles north of Jackson with top winds of 50 miles per hour, below hurricane velocity.
The tornado watch was lifted at 9 a.m.
Although extensive damage was reported in a large portion of south central Mississippi, the stretch between Pascagoula and tiny Waveland was the hardest hit.
Another battalion of National Guardsmen was called to duty on the coast, the 150th Transportation Battalion headquartered at Meridian.
Gulfport was hard hit in the pre-dawn hours when Camille made her sweep across the coast, then spent her fury inland in Mississippi. By mid-morning, the remnants of the storm -- with top winds of about 55 m.p.h. -- were reported 20 miles east of Jackson and moving inland.
"My God, my house is demolished," sobbed a Biloxi woman who ventured from a motel in the gray dawn to survey the damage.
Strangely, a neighbor's house was virtually undamaged, but that was the exception. There was heavy damage in Biloxi, but it was mild compared to the wreckage in Gulfport where most of the downtown area was destroyed.
Some four hours after the storm, many telephone lines had been repaired in the hard-hit areas, giving some communications to the towns.
Along the 100-mile stretch of coastline from the Florida panhandle to New Orleans, tides ranged from six to 20 feet above normal, covering houses, roads and wrecking bridges.
The winds split trees like dry twigs. Debris and trees choked roads.
In addition to the 10 known dead at Biloxi, officials said two were dead at Gulfport and two more at Moss Point.
Although there were no casualty figures from Bay St. Louis, officials said the toll would probably not be as high as might have been thought since 90 percent of the residents were evacuated.
Coast Guard helicopters bucked still savage winds at dawn to dip low across the ocean-fronts in a search for survivors or persons in distress.
There was little drinking water to be found, but national guardsmen were trucking tanker-loads to stricken cities.
Many of the 1,200 guardsmen activated to guard against looting and help make rescues rode amphibious vehicles through streets inundated with water and otherwise impassable.
Out in the Gulf of Mexico, an unidentified freighter caught in the trailing edge of the storm, limped toward St. Petersburg, Fla., with only two crewmen still on board. Five of the crew were removed to a vessel standing by when the small cargo freighter began listing at a 45-degree angle. The coast guard cutter Diligence plowed through rough seas, trying to reach the stricken 192-foot ship.
The Georgia Air National Guard began shuttling food and supplies to Keesler Air Force Base at Biloxi.
The route from Biloxi to Gulfport, made by a United Press International staffer, in only 15 miles, normally a scenic drive. But in the aftermath of Camille, through the debris and litter and water, the drive today took an hour.
In Gulfport, five persons, including a woman an her five-year-old daughter, were reported missing and many others were injured.
"The hospitals are only keeping the real serious (injured)," said State Sen. NAP CASSIBRY, a Civil Defense coordinator in Gulfport. "Some that they sould keep they can't."
The Gulfport business district was hit considerably harder than was Biloxi. Stores and homes along the beachfront were demolished. Damage went inland at least a mile, although the structures along the beachfront took the brunt of the damage.
Officials said the port of Gulfport was "almost a complete loss." Three big cargo vessels were washed onto land. One was the Holder; a Lebanese ship loaded with wheat for India; another was the Alamo Victory, a U.S. vessel loaded with military cargo for Vietnam; and the third was the Sea Hawk, a U.S. ship loaded with fertilizer for Vietnam.
Delta Democrat-Times Greenville Mississippi 1969-08-18
HURRICANE'S DEATH TOLL IS 132 AND RISING.
SOME LIVED TO TELL THE "REAL STORY"
Gulfport, Miss. (UPI) -- The real story of Hurricane Camille was told by the people who lived through it.
"The storm was like a woman in labor -- it just kept getting harder and harder as the night wore on," said B. D. JOHNSON, a Red Cross official.
THOMAS PARKER, an offshore oil worker, was huddled in the attic of a hotel, which shuddered under the winds at Buras, La.
"We watched trailers swapping ends -- just spinning. It was unbelievable. That's the first hurricane I've ever been through and it'll be the last if I got anything to do about it."
WES McFARLAND, 16-year-old son of a doctor, fled his home at Bay St. Louis, Miss., for a nearby hospital. "The house was shaking and falling apart. The doors even started to break off," he said.
At the hospital, MRS. GERRY REWEL watched the waters rise and was afraid patients would have to be taken to the roof in 100-mile-an-hour winds.
"I went into the chapel for a minute, but the chapel windows blew out. Finally I just said that if the Lord would save me and my family, I'd never complain about what I lost." Her home was destroyed, but her husband and two sons survived.
"The roof blew off our surgery building and we're setting up for temporary surgery in our delivery room," said ROBERT A. ALEXANDER, comptroller of Memorial Hospital at Gulfport.
JOHN KOSHAK of Gulfport prayed that his wife and seven children would not be harmed. They weren't. "The good Lord was with us. At 1:10 this morning, I didn't think any of us would be here."
MRS. CHARLES JOHNSON and about 40 other persons sought refuge in the courthouse at Bay St. Louis. Jailers put them in cells when windows in the building shattered.
"They were real Southern gentlemen. They put us in jail, but we were glad to be there," she said.
At least 15 persons died at Pass Christian. The victims included five couples who were having a hurricane party in a three story apartment. Police Chief JERRY PURALTA couldn't make them leave.
"The last time I went up to try to get them out, the water was just over the sea wall. They were having a good time and they wouldn't leave. That's the last anybody saw of them," he said.
Wind whipped the roof off the elementary school where 600 persons were hiding near the little town of Lakeshore.
"Men broke down. There was screaming and crying and praying, just about everything a fellow could think to do," said Principal OREN SEAL.
Parents lay on their children to protect them. Not one of the refugees was hurt.
Delta Democrat-Times Greenville Mississippi 1969-08-19
(Transcriber's Note: The total number of fatalaties from Camille (as best as can be verified) I have found to be 259 deaths. This number varies from report to report.)