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On August 16, 1969, merely two days after being christened a tropical storm, a small but extremely intense Hurricane Camille was already a Category 5 storm with a 908-millibar pressure center and sustained winds of 160 mph. Its track was north-northwest at a relatively slow 14 mph. On the afternoon of the 17th, a reconnaissance aircraft found a central pressure of 901 millibars and maximum surface winds of >200 mph near the center.
On August 17, 1969, Hurricane Camille made landfall in Louisiana and subsequently moved onshore through coastal Mississippi and Alabama, causing more than $1.5 billion in damage (1969 dollars). Winds were in excess of 200 mph, forcing a storm surge of 8 m. Widespread flooding in Richmond, Virginia demonstrated that interests inland, far from the point of coastal landfall and ostensibly outside the storm's path, can also sustain major damage from hurricanes.
Inland late on August 19th, a combination of factors interacted to produce several areas of concentrated, torrential rainfall. The rains caused devastating flash floods and landslides along the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains and record flooding along the James River system. Several rainfall amounts of more than 25 inches in 8 hours occurred, ranking the rains of then tropical depression Camille with other record rainfalls throughout the world.
30 Years Later
On August 17-18, 1999, a storm impact symposium was held in New Orleans to mark the 30th anniversary of Hurricane Camille, one of only two Category 5 hurricanes to strike the United States in recorded history. The conference examined major coastal storms as instruments of change along the shores of the United States, as well as damage to social and economic infrastructure. Questions addressed included the potential impact of a Category 5 storm on today's highly developed shorelines, how do coastal zone managers plan for such an event, and what are the long-term effects of such a storm. Of the 40 papers presented at the meeting, USGS researchers representing Geologic, Biologic and Water Resources Divisions presented 11. Presenters representing the Coastal and Marine Program were Bob Morton, Karen Morgan, Bill Loeb, and Abby Sallenger.
The conference was co-sponsored by the USGS Coastal & Marine Program, University of New Orleans, NOAA, AAPG Division of Environmental Geosciences, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Lake Pontchartrain Foundation, and Mississippi Office of Geology. Jeff Williams and Abby Sallenger were on the organizing committee.
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