Hurricane Irene: Definitely Not a Camille

The entire East coast is watching every little move Hurricane Irene makes as she begins to wreak havoc. When North Carolina authorities announced they’d requested body bags from the government, it sort of brought the whole “danger element” front and center. It also reminded me of some information I’d come across while researching a story for Yahoo! News. Hurricane Camille remains one of the most devastating natural disasters this nation has ever seen. What’s been buried over the years are the eerie warnings the National Hurricane Center issued prior to its landfall; warnings never issued again until Hurricane Katrina. Note that the more time that passed, the more dire the warning became. Take a look –

Quick note – I tried to clean up the graphics, but keep in mind, they’re part of the archives of the National Hurricane Center for a storm that made landfall in 1969.

This first advisory surely was an ominous sign of what was to come :

I love how they referred to Camille as an “immature, young storm”:

On the 16th of August, as it was entering the Gulf, the biggest concerns were that it’d regain its maximum wind speed of 115 mph:

Here’s where it begins to get interesting. The 1 p.m. advisory on the 16th urged Florida residents to stay current with the 115 mph storm. There were near-certainties that the storm would take a due-north course:

Note that it’s now 3 p.m. on the 16th. Camille has stalled in the center of the Gulf of Mexico and the winds remain at an estimated 115 mph.

Now look – its wind speeds jumped by 35 mph and by 5 p.m. – a mere 2 hours later – Hurricane Camille was near cat 5 status. Also, note that the only hurricane warnings issued were for Florida.

By 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, Camille was 300 miles due south of Pensacola. She was moving northwest; however, the NHC still hadn’t posted hurricane warnings for residents west of the Florida panhandle. Note that the belief was still leaning towards Camille turning due-north. Also, the winds had increased to 160 mph.

Finally, at 5 a.m., NHC issued hurricane warnings for Alabama and Mississippi – still, it believed Camille would lose that westerly “jog” and would begin moving north, even as she was only 250 miles offshore and very close to being too far west that any due-north movement would put it in Alabama anyway. In other words, Florida was close to being out of the line of fire, but those of us in Mississippi (and Alabama and Louisiana) were beginning to panic as it began occurring to everyone that the path was not going to be Florida – and the storm was just HOURS away from landfall.

At 3 p.m., Camille’s winds were at 190 mph and the ominous warnings were verbatim to what was posted as Hurricane Katrina (see those below the graphic):

Hurricane Katrina warnings:

MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS…PERHAPS LONGER. AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL…LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED. PERSONS…PETS…AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK. POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS…AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.

Camille made landfall on this day in 1969. She caused some might big changes in many folks’ projected life plans. While I love a good storm, a cat 5 hurricane is not anything anyone ever wants.

Here are a few more photos of Camille’s damage:

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