Fifty years later: Remembering Hurricane Camille

Published 8:48 am Saturday, August 24, 2019

Hurricanes Camille and Katrina were as different as night and day, yet those who lived through both storms say the two were similar in many ways.

Saturday, Aug. 17 (was) the 50th anniversary of Camille and Aug. 29 will be 14 years since Katrina.

“Camille was a Sunday Storm,” said Rupert Lacy, now emergency management director for Harrison County. He was going on 11 and recalls going to church with his family in Gulfport the day before Camille.

They made a stop at Shipley Donuts, as was their Sunday routine, before his father and brother went looking for plywood to board up their home in Orange Grove. They found supplies miles away in Pascagoula. By morning their church was gone, he said, and the Coast was in ruins.

Katrina came ashore on a Monday morning, so those who remained saw the incredible storm surge and waves on top of that rush toward their homes and chase some of them into their attics to survive the flood.

Charles Sullivan, archivist at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, already had amassed more than 20,000 pictures of Camille and other hurricanes on the Coast. He and his wife rode out Katrina in the archives at Perkinston.

“If the archives are going down I’m going down with them,” he said. The couple and the archives were safe, he said, thanks in part to new windows being installed in the office 2 weeks earlier.

Both Camille and Katrina hit in August. The storms took different paths but landed in the same section of Coastal Mississippi. They were so destructive the names were retired and never again will be used for a hurricane.

Camille was a Category 5 when she came ashore in South Mississippi. One of only a handful of Category 5 storms to ever hit the United States, Camille’s winds broke the meters. Sustained winds were estimated at close to 200 mph with gusts much higher.

Nell Frisbie said she kept hearing the roar of trains the night of Camille. “Why are the freight trains running in this storm?” she asked her husband, Bill, as they took shelter in his office on Main Street in Bay St. Louis.