Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summer is not over just yet - Hurricane Camille

While walking the dog these past few mornings, it has felt like late September. The air has been cold, the dew heavy and there are even some trees starting to turn color and dare I say a few leaves tumbling to the ground. For those of us that love the hot summer weather, it has been a little disappointing in 2014, August especially. But don't give up just yet, the pattern is about to change for the last days of August. High pressure will give us sunshine today and warm highs of 27C (81F) in Montreal. This will be followed by showers and thunderstorms as early as this evening and lasting into Friday. The low responsible for the precipitation will move from the Great Lakes to off the east coast by Friday. High pressure will then build in again over Quebec for the weekend with sunshine and warm highs near 26C (79F). This weather will last well into next week with highs in the upper 20's. Indications are that the warm and dry weather will last most of next week with above normal temperatures expected through the end of the month for large regions of Quebec, Ontario and western New England.

The devastation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast was complete after the passage of Hurricane Camille in August 1969. (NOAA)
It has been a quiet Atlantic hurricane season so far in 2014 with only 2 named storms, Arthur and Bertha. August can be quiet but it has also produced some very memorable and historically significant storms. On August 19, 1969, 45 years ago, hurricane Camille laid waste to the Mississippi Coast. The small but powerful storm is one of only three Category 5 hurricanes to make landfall on the US mainland. The storm pounded the Gulf Coast from Florida to Louisiana with 200mph winds and a then record storm surge of over 25 feet. Radar and forecasting techniques were not at the level they are today and many refused to leave there homes, some just blocks from the Gulf. The surge, arriving in the dark, wiped away entire towns during the overnight hours of August 19-20, killing over 200 people, some were never found to this day. It took decades for the economy of the region to return to what it was before Camille with damages exceeding $1.42 Billion 1969 dollars. Just two days later Camille would dump an astonishing 2 feet (over 600mm) of rain in just a few hours on northern Virginia, liquefying hillsides and washing away entire communities in water and mud. Another 120 plus people would die as a result of the flash flooding in Virginia.

During my entire life I have had a fascination with hurricanes, and Camille has always been the storm people refer to when describing just how intense and devastating hurricanes can be. She had set the bar, that is of course until Katrina in August 2005. Katrina, with a 35 foot storm surge, would kill over 1800 people, devastating the same region as Camille did but this time including metro New Orleans.

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