50 years after Hurricane Camille, experts reflect on historic impact

(Photo Source: WLOX-TV)
By  | 

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) -- It’s been exactly five decades since Hurricane Camille forever changed the way America responds to severe weather.

“Camille is the one, the big reason we retire names," said Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center. “You’d retire a name for about 10 years, let all the papers and the studies go away, then the name came back. There was so many research papers, so much studying, so much looking into this unprecedented event they said you know, I think we’ll retire that name forever.”

A group of storm survivors, supporters, former and current emergency management workers shared their experiences with the Category 5 storm.

“We didn’t have the technology that we have now. We had problems getting the essential things like food, water and fuel, things that were critical to the community," said Linda Rouse, former civil defense director.

Rouse noted that communication tactics were very different in 1969.

“No text back then,” she said. “What we had was HAM operators, radio operators and the local emergency services tried to ban together and keep in touch.”

Ray Carter was just a kid when Camille crept closer to the Gulf Coast. His father, a National Guardsman, was at Camp Shelby.

50 years after Hurricane Camille, local and national EMA leaders reflect on how the Category 5 storm forever changed the way America responds to hurricanes. #Camille50 pic.twitter.com/LORDlQHi0O
— Joyce Philippe (@JoyceMeetsWorld) August 17, 2019

“He called us at the house, my mother and the four children and said you need to pack up and leave. We packed up and left that Sunday,” Carter recalled.

The Carters were able to evade the worst of the storm, but more than 150 people still on the Coast when Camille hit met a more deadly fate. Experts said remembering Camille helps them plan for a safer future.

“You go back in time, you look at storms like Katrina, storms like Camille. It’s just a reminder that this can happen again," Graham said.

Carter said that he never attended a Camille memorial event, but he couldn’t miss this one. He is still amazed that he lived through one of the most historic events of his time.

“Man had walked on the moon for the first time in July of that year. So there were a lot of things that happened in 1969, but when you’re on the Coast, the only thing that really mattered was Camille," Carter said.