50 Years After Devastation of Hurricane Camille Nelson Co. Gets Answers
NELSON COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Dozens of people lost their lives in August of 1969 after more than two feet of water drenched the area in less than 8 hours. Community members are getting new answers about how and why Hurricane Camille caused so much damage.
The Nelson County Historical Society hosted an event featuring a professor who researched the ‘Meteorological Causes and Impacts of Camille.’ During Sunday's program, he presented his findings.
“I think to a lot of folks it was nearly the impossible storm,” said Professor Jeff Halverson.
For years people in Nelson County have thought about how and why Hurricane Camille could leave behind so much destruction in their peaceful pocket of central Virginia.
“People are still amazed and curious about what happened that night and how it could it have happened,” said Deborah Harvey, president of Nelson County Historical Society.
Halverson learned about Hurricane Camille as a grad student at the University of Virginia. He's spent years trying to understand what happened that day in August of 1969.
“This was one of the big events of the century and it was a natural type of storm for me to want to understand and learn more about,” said Halverson. “A lot of people had assumed that the whole hurricane stalled and just stopped and was just spinning over Nelson County for 8 hours and we know that's not true.”
Halverson said the mountains, combined with the humidity of the air, triggered a series of thunderstorms long after the hurricane passed over the county.
“The mountains intercepted that low-level humid air but those upper-level winds were blowing the storms back out towards the ocean so it was this conveyor belt that got set up over the county,” stated Halverson.
Community members listened closely, eager to get answers for a storm that left them with so little.
“You realize that you weren't finding people that were injured, you weren't finding much of anything so much stuff washed away,” said William ‘Dick’ Whitehead, who lives in Nelson County.
Dozens lost their lives in the storm and now people want to know how to prepare in case this happens in the future.
“It’s really important for people today to still to understand what led to the landslides, for people to know when they're looking at building today in places what, you know, what's safe,” said Harvey.
“The juxtaposition of these mountains so close to that ocean sets us up and makes us vulnerable for these type of events, they're going to happen again,” stated Halverson.
The Nelson County Historical Society will be publishing a book in August commemorating the lives lost in Hurricane Camille. The book will include rarely shown pictures of the damage the storm left behind.