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Profile: Hurricane Camille

Hurricane Camille was a participant or observer in the following events:

CBS News reports that new models indicate that Katrina may shift west towards New Orleans. Noting that New Orleans is “among one of the most vulnerable hurricane places, if not the most vulnerable in the country,” the reporter reminds viewers that although hurricanes generally weaken before hitting land, “Hurricane Camille didn’t in ‘69; there’s no guarantee that this one will. This could very well be a Category 4.” (CBS News 8/26/2005) ABC News contains a similar report tonight, nothing that Katrina could hit near New Orleans and be a catastrophic hurricane. (ABC 8/26/2005) MSNBC reports that four out of five computer models indicate that Katrina will hit between New Orleans and the Mississippi-Alabama Border. (MSNBC 8/26/2005)

NHC Director Max Mayfield personally calls Louisiana Governor Blanco and Mississippi Governor Barbour. Mayfield tells Barbour that Katrina may be a “Camille-like storm.” He tells Blanco that this one will be a “big, big deal.” “I wanted to be able to go to sleep that night,” he will later recall. According to Mayfield, Blanco is unsure that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has fully grasped the situation and urges Mayfield to call him. (Glasser and Grunwald 9/11/2005)

“Katrina is in the midst of a truly historic rapid deepening phase… [and] is now the sixth strongest hurricane ever measured in the Atlantic,” states Jeff Matthews, meteorologist with the Weather Underground. “At the rate Katrina is deepening, she could easily be the third or fourth most intense hurricane ever, later today.” Katrina’s “winds are likely to increase to ‘catch up’ to the rapidly falling pressure, and could approach the all-time record of 190 mph set in Camille and Allen. Winds of this level will create maximum storm surge heights over 25 feet, and this storm surge will affect an area at least double the area wiped clean by Camille, which was roughly half the size of Katrina. Katrina has continued to expand in size, and is now a huge hurricane like Ivan. Damage will be very widespread and extreme if Katrina can maintain Category 5 strength at landfall.” Masters warns that, “Given that the storm is so large and is already pushing up a huge storm surge wave in front of it, even a weakened Category 3 Katrina hitting at low tide will cause an incredible amount of damage. A stretch of coast 170 miles long will experience hurricane force winds, given the current radius of hurricane force winds around the storm. A direct hit on New Orleans in this best-case scenario may still be enough to flood the city, resulting in heavy loss of life and $30 billion or more in damage.” (Masters 8/28/2005)

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) warns that Katrina, already a potentially catastrophic hurricane headed for the Northern Gulf Coast, continues to gain strength. Katrina is getting stronger-and bigger. The NHC notes that Katrina is now as strong as Hurricane Camille was in 1969, only larger, and warns that storm surge flooding will be 18-22 feet above normal, with surges to 28 feet in some areas. Although hurricanes rarely sustain these extreme winds for long, the NHC reports no obvious large-scale effects that could cause Katrina to weaken substantially. Katrina’s path likely will move northwest, then north-northwest over the next 24 hours. Other aspects of the NHC Advisory include:
bullet Location: 225 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River
bullet Direction and Speed: West-northwest at 12 mph
bullet Maximum Sustained Winds: 175 mph with higher gusts
bullet Estimated Central Pressure: 907 mb
bullet Size: Hurricane winds now extend 105 miles from the center; tropical storm force winds extend to 205 miles
bullet Probability that in the next 69 hours, Katrina’s eye will pass within 75 miles of:
bullet Panama City, FL: 12 percent
bullet Gulfport, MS: 33 percent
bullet New Orleans, LA: 35 percent (National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005; National Hurricane Center 8/28/2005)

Minutes after the National Hurricane Center issues its Advisory, the National Weather Service for New Orleans issues an urgent weather message, “Devastating Damage Expected,” which could not be more stark: “Hurricane Katrina [is] a most powerful hurricane with unprecedented strength…rivaling the intensity of Hurricane Camille of 1969. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks…perhaps longer. At least one half of well constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail…leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed. The majority of industrial buildings will become non functional. Partial to complete wall and roof failure is expected. All wood framed low rising apartment buildings will be destroyed. Concrete block low rise apartments will sustain major damage…including some wall and roof failure. High rise office and apartment buildings will sway dangerously…a few to the point of total collapse. All windows will blow out. Airborne debris will be widespread…and may include heavy items such as household appliances and even light vehicles. Sport utility vehicles and light trucks will be moved. The blown debris will create additional destruction. Persons…pets…and livestock exposed to the winds will face certain death if struck. Power outages will last for weeks…as most power poles will be down and transformers destroyed. Water shortages will make human suffering incredible by modern standards. The vast majority of native trees will be snapped or uprooted. Only the heartiest will remain standing…but be totally defoliated. Few crops will remain. Livestock left exposed to the winds will be killed. An inland hurricane wind warning is issued when sustained winds near hurricane force…or frequent gusts at or above hurricane force…are certain within the next 12 to 24 hours. Once tropical storm and hurricane force winds onset…do not venture outside!” (Times-Picayune Blog 8/28/2005; National Weather Service 9/28/2005)

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