BILOXI, Miss.–The country was remembering events that happened in 1969 this weekend. There was the Woodstock music festival in New York. In Mississippi it was the 45th anniversary of Hurricane Camille, which came ashore near the mouth of the Mississippi River and devastated the Mississippi coast on Aug. 17, 1969.
This weekend communities all along the coast remembered the 143 lives lost there. The people who were alive at the time also may have taken a moment to recall the way the coast was before the storm. After the landfall, it was never the same.
The storm flattened nearly everything on the coast, making it unrecognizable. Damage estimates at the time put it at $1.5 billion. That equals about $9 billion in today’s money.
It was the second most powerful storm to ever hit the U.S., with winds at nearly 200 mph. There are some who argue that its impact was worse than Katrina, which hit in 2005.
Bert Case worked for WJTV-TV in Jackson and traveled to the coast to cover the approach and aftermath of the hurricane, along with photographer Bob Bullock.
“When it got to be about 11 o’clock and the doors started rattling on the front of the Buena Vista Hotel, and the doors were blowing out and the windows were going off like mortars breaking, I said, you know, Bob we need to think about what we’re going to do if this old building doesn’t hold up. He said, ‘what’s your plan?’ I said, well, I thought about tying myself to that big oak tree out there.”
Case said the hotel’s first floor was blown out.
He said in an interview with SuperTalk Mississippi’s Paul Gallo that he did fear for his life while covering the storm.
He said Camille was the biggest story of his career.
“I spent ten days in the aftermath. Just incredible devastation. I didn’t believe it when they told me Katrina was worse. I didn’t buy that.”
The storm didn’t stop on the coast. It caused damage throughout the state as it came ashore and headed north. It killed over 150 more people when it caused major flooding in Virginia.