'We saw rain we will probably never see again': Rockbridge County remembers Hurricane Camille

Storm 50 years ago killed more than 20 people in its path

By Taj Simmons - Reporter

BUENA VISTA, Va. - Aug. 19, 1969 was the night Hurricane Camille turned Buena Vista into a disaster zone.

More than 20 people died when the remnants of the hurricane caused record-breaking flooding in the city. This weekend, a full house packed into the Parry McCluer High School gym to remember the devastation 50 years ago.

"Oftentimes, memories are the only things we have left, and sometimes memories are the only things we need," said Washington and Lee University historian Tom Camden, who was a teenager when he survived the storm. "My mother's cousin, Silas Clark, and his wife and children were all washed away."

The event featured scrapbooks with photos and news clippings of what happened, but several people also shared their personal stories of survival.

Bill Todd, a volunteer first responder during Camille, told the crowd about a young girl he helped rescue who lost her whole family in the storm.

"Her dad had put her on a bale of hay. He knew he could no longer survive, so he pushed her into a tree line. That's where the bales of hay came to rest. That's where we found her."

Anna Bangley, who was nine months pregnant when Camille sliced through Buena Vista, says she still remembers the noise the storm made when it hit.

“I remember hearing a strange wind,” Bangley said. “We realized it wasn't wind, it was water running across the road into the field that was outside of our yard."

Buena Vista has built itself back up in the 50 years since Camille, but the memories of the storm are unbreakable.

"We see rain all the time, but before that night was over, we saw rain we will probably never, ever see again," Todd said.

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