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The story of Camille, and it's
effects on American Legion Posts along the Mississippi Gulf Coast
and elsewhere, was extracted and
edited from the November 1969 issue of the American Legion Magazine. The article, accompanied by pictures, was written by Robert
B. Pitkin who was the Editor of the American Legion Magazine in November of 1969. The magazine was provided by Oliver Oren
Williams, Jr., a Member and Past Post Commander of American Legion Post 119 in Gulfport, Mississippi. Our thanks to "Red"
Williams for his wisdom in keeping his copies of American Legion Monthly Magazines going all the way back to 1969 and further.
This extract was edited by Robert J. Dougherty, a Member of Post 119 in Gulfport Mississippi. Bob & his family chose to remain
in their family home about 1/4 mile north of the Sand Beach, in the small town of Mississippi City between Biloxi and Gulfport. Their
home received no damage due to the height of the homes foundation above Mean Sea Level, and a "forest" of very old and large
Oak, Hickory, Pine, and other trees between their home and the beach. Bob & his family all said, "We will never be so foolish again!!!"
Bob felt he was in a good position to do some editing of this article, putting some words in past tense rather than present tense at
some points. Also, for continuity, some paragraphs were moved from one point in the article to another point. Also, some sentences
were moved from one paragraph to another, or from one point in a paragraph to another point in the same paragraph. All of the text in
the article is presented herein. "Notes" show texts, pictures, and maps added to the article to help viewers better understand Camille.
All the pictures in the article were black-and-white, and all are presented here. The magazine's age and wear-and-tear, required that
considerable work had to be done to the pictures in the article. The ravages of time to the magazine were removed as best possible, the
pictures were changed slightly in brightness and contrast, and sharpened where necessary. All of the pictures herein show the full width
and height of the pictures with nothing left out, but some have been repositioned in the article to locations more suitable to the text.
And now to the article titled "The Continuing Disaster on the Gulf Coast" written by Robert B. Pitkin, Editor of the American
Legion Magazine in November of 1969.
|"The Continuing Disaster on the Gulf Coast"
(Note: Text added. Hurricane
Camille struck at night. The full force of the storm
was felt all along the Mississippi Gulf Coast between 9pm and 2am the following
morning. The storm moved quickly northward away from the Coast. The high
winds and seas subsided soon after. The next morning was calm, bright and sunny,
allowing "stunned" residents and rescue workers to emerge from homes and/or
other locations to begin surveying the damage. End of text added.)
According to a part of the Encyclopedia Britannica, which may need rewriting,
Biloxi Mississippi is a "year-round" resort with more than the usual seaside and
country sports. It is hard to comprehend, said Ralph Godwin, the Mississippi
American Legion's National Executive Committeeman, that "Hurricane Camille
last August 17th did not damage or destroy the best of Biloxi's year-round resort,
it erased it, so that much of it does not exist and will not exist again." The same
can be said for much of Gulfport, Bay Saint Louis, Pass Christian and other Mississippi communities, as well as Buras, Louisiana, and other Louisiana Delta and East Gulf towns.
(Note: Text added. Water some 27 feet above normal sea levels in places rushed inland as Camille came ashore. On top of the huge surge, the highest ever recorded in the United States, wave heights reached 30 to 35 feet battering everything in their path. This picture shows remnants of homes and businesses on the Pass Christian side of the Bay of Saint Louis Bridge. Following Camille, all of the water in the Bay of Saint Louis was covered with the floating debris of homes, businesses, and other structures. (End of text added.)
(Note: Picture and text added.
Camille roared in to strike the Mississippi Gulf Coast, devastating
the cities of Waveland, Bay Saint Louis, Pass Christian, Long
Beach, Gulfport, Biloxi, and Ocean Springs, with heavy damage extending far beyond these Cities and Towns. At least 250 lives were lost, with another 100 missing. Some 5,000 homes were totally destroyed and 40,000 heavily damaged. Many businesses were also totally destroyed, and even more were damaged. A storm tide of 24.6 foot occurred at Pass Christian Mississippi.
Reported from the Library in Pass Christian following the storm: "On the first floor, sand covered the floor, along with glass, ceiling tiles, books, shelves, and broken furniture. On the second floor, the collection had not received the prolonged soaking that the downstairs books had. But even so, many of them which had been washed or blown off the shelves, were not salvageable and had to be discarded."
Other Libraries along the Coast sustained severe damage, and many of their irreplaceable collections were lost and/or were not salvageable. End of text added.)
(Note: text added. Camille was
born west of Grand Cayman Island on August 9th 1969, and strengthened
as it moved into the Gulf of Mexico. Around midnight of August
17th, the hurricane hit the Mississippi coast, just east of Bay
St. Louis, with 190 mph winds and 30 foot tides, killing 143
people along the seaboard from Alabama to Louisiana. Camille
was only the second Category 5 storm ever to hit the United States
mainland. The other was the 1935 Labor Day storm which struck
the Florida Keys.
In the hardest hit areas along the lower Louisiana peninsula and Mississippi, more than 5,000 homes were totally destroyed with 40,000 damaged. Storm tides of 20 and 30 feet were so high that one survivor was washed over the City of Pass Christian without encountering any utility poles, buildings, or trees.
"After landfall, Camille weakened steadily as it moved on a curving path through Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia," recounted William Proenza, director of the NWS Southern Region. "The heavy rains normally accompanying a dying hurricane diminished from nearly eight inches in southern Mississippi to one to two inches in eastern Kentucky as the tropical depression passed through," he said. The minimal rainfall was expected to continue on August 20th as the storm proceeded on a course through West Virginia and into central Virginia. The state of Virginia counted 113 dead with 39 missing with total damages amounting to more than $116 million ($534 million in 1997 dollars). The floods, rain-induced landslides, and property damage indicated that this event was the worst natural disaster ever to strike the state. Camille's total damage was estimated at $1.4 billion at the time ($6.45-billion in 1998 dollars). "Camille caused emergency managers to rethink ways to reduce storm fatalities," said Jerry Jarrell, director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center in Miami. End of text added.)
(Note: Bottom left picture and this text added. After Camille, a Tug Boat washed up on the shore North of Route 90 in Gulfport. Later, it was turned around, strongly mounted, and converted into a Gift Shop. It remains there today as a steadfast reminder of Hurricane Camille, to anyone walking on the sidewalk or driving East or West on the Beach Boulevard. Located in a tug boat that washed ashore during Hurricane Camille in 1969, this unique store carries a huge selection of Gulfport and Gulf Coast souvenirs and memorabilia. If you're visiting the Gulf Coast, stop in and visit...and the folks there will be happy to tell you more about Hurricane Camille and the history of the Gift Shop. If you have any Camille memorabilia, it would be nice if you would consider donating it the the Hurricane Camille Gift Shop. The Camille Gift Shop is located at 3700 West Beach Boulevard, Gulfport Mississippi. The Gift Shop's phone number is 1-228-864-5284. Stop in and browse around for awhile.
(Note: Text added. The Gulfport
Veterans Administration Hospital, during Camille, was located
along Route 90 directly north of the Beach Boulevard, and overlooked
the sand beach. The main building was multi-story, and very strongly
constructed. It is still located there today, about 1/4 mile west of American Legion Post 119 in Gulfport. The foundation of the main and other buildings were barely above sea level, and during Camille the storm surge and wind driven seas ahead of the storm caused the water to begin flooding the first floor of the main and other buildings. The picture shows the Recreation Hall, Theater, and Library, not the Main Building. Although many patients were evacuated before the storm, many patients could not be moved. Those patients who could not be moved were relocated to higher floors as the storm surge and wind driven high seas continued to rise during the approach and strike of Camille along the coastline. When Camille struck the Coast, the more than 24 foot storm surge, topped with 25+ foot wave heights completely flooded the first floor of the Main Building and caused severe damage. An extremely strong concrete and steel fence was later added along Route 90, to prevent future storm driven debris from damaging the buildings...and it has performed very well over the years since. End of added text.)
The Mississippi coastline is
about 85 miles long East to West. The very worst
of Hurricane Camille hit a little West of center, so that the worst of the destruction was from around Biloxi west to Louisiana border...covering three-quarters of the whole coastline.
(Note: Text added. A minimum pressure of 26.84 inches was reported in Bay Saint Louis Mississippi, which made Camille the second most intense hurricane of record to hit the United States. The actual maximum sustained winds will never be known, as the hurricane destroyed all the wind-recording instruments in the landfall area. The wind-estimates made following the strike of Camille on the Coast were near 200 miles per hour. Columbia Mississippi, located 75 miles inland from the Coast, reported 120 mile per hour sustained winds. Sections of Mississippi State Highway 90, the Beach Boulevard were gone, either smashed into pieces or lifted and tumbled like so much "scrap concrete". Along with many destroyed homes that had stood for over 100 years along the Coast, there were others that were literally demolished and swept out into the Gulf when the 20+ foot storm surge retreated after the storm moved inland. The following morning, all that was left for miles and miles was sand and more sand, bits and pieces of this and that, bricks and concrete blocks scattered everywhere. Splintered and fallen trees, and utility poles with electrical and telephone wires dangling were blocking the streets. End of added text.)
|The Article Continues With Part 2
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