Remembering Hurricane Camille: Part One

By: Myles Henderson Email
By: Myles Henderson Email

August 18th, 2009

This Thursday, August 20th the Nelson County Museum of History will host a Hurricane Camille remembrance. The program marks the 40th anniversary of Camille's impact on Nelson County. But the story of Camille began hundreds of miles away from Central Virginia:

August 17th, 1969... Hurricane Camille spins in the Gulf of Mexico, gaining strength as it moves north. Just before midnight Camille slams into the Gulf Coast as a category five hurricane, packing wind gusts of over 200 mph and a 20 foot storm surge.

As the storm moves inland it quickly weakens into a tropical depression as it pushes into western Tennessee. From there the remnants of Camille take an unexpected turn. Leo Pugh, Nelson County Deputy Sheriff says, "We had no knowledge of really what was going on other than it was a bad storm."

Camille makes a sharp right turn and heads east into Virginia. But for folks in Nelson County it was just another Tuesday. Roy Massie, Virginia State Police Dispatcher says, "I went to work that afternoon, Tuesday, August the 19th, 1969 at 4pm. Everything was routine, it was raining." But this was no ordinary rain, something felt different. "I noticed the sky was black but we got to the top of Tye River hill and it was so black, it was scary. And I told her something is going on." says Kenny Schaar from VDOT.

The rain continued to fall overnight. It rained so hard that it was difficult to see or even light a road flare. Massie adds, "He said, I can't even get a fuse light. I'm not talking about burning; I cannot light one it's raining so hard." About 630 million tons of water fell that night over Nelson County. Many locals reporting 27 to 31 inches of rain.

But by 4 a.m. Wednesday on the 20th the rain had stopped. Local Historian, Paul Saunders says, "I woke up the next morning and looked out of my bedroom window and looked out upon the bottoms and I saw water like we had never seen before."

Tune in Wednesday for the CBS19 News at 6 and we'll take a look back at the local impacts of Camille in Nelson County including some amazing home video shot just a few days after the storm.

We welcome your comments on this story, especially your memories of Camille.

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