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Hurricane Camille, one of the most powerful and costly hurricanes on record, made landfall on the coast of Mississippi 45 years ago.
Camille is one of only three known hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S. as a Category 5 storm; Camille killed 259 people and caused nearly $9.2 billion (2014 USD) in damages.
Camille's intensity at landfall was 26.72 inches of mercury (905 millibars), making it the second strongest hurricane to make landfall, exceeded only by 1935's Labor Day hurricane.
"Most hurricanes weaken as they approach landfall, but Camille is the exception," said AccuWeather.com Forensic Meteorologist Steve Wistar. "That's unusual."
The hurricane formed in the Cayman Islands on August 14, 1969, and continued to rapidly intensify before making landfall in Mississippi on August 17, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Camille caused a 24-foot storm surge, the greatest for the U.S. until Hurricane Katrina, and winds gusted at more than 170 mph.
The storm famously destroyed the Richelieu Manor Apartments in Pass Christian, Mississippi, where the storm made landfall. The building was destroyed by the storm surge, killing nearly all of the people inside who were gathered for a supposed "hurricane party."
“It’s unlikely that those who stayed had any idea that a Category 5 storm was coming,” AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Dale Mohler said, adding that the government did not forecast hurricane categories at the time. The combination of a lack of forecasting technology and some forecasters' inability to predict the intensity is another reason the fatalities were so severe and why people did not evacuate the area, Mohler added.
“The storm intensified very rapidly,” he said. “It surprised some forecasters.”
Wistar added that Camille was a two-part disaster, as storm's deadly impact affected both the coast and inland.
Over the next several days, the storm weakened into a depression on land. However, the slow-moving system wreaked havoc on the mid-Atlantic, especially in Virginia.
The storm dumped more than 2 feet of rain in the region, Mohler said.
With the majority of the rain occurring in three to four hours in the southwestern mountains of Virginia, more than 100 people died due to disastrous flooding and landslides.
Wistar remembers Hurricane Camille's impact during the summer of 1969.
"There were two very different stories going on," he said, noting that the Woodstock festival in Bethel, New York, was just wrapping up as Camille made landfall.
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