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50 Years After Camille: What if it happened again?

Camille killed more than 100 in our area in 1969

ROANOKE, Va. – 50 years later, Camille is still remembered as one of the worst, if not the worst, storms to impact any part of our area. Between Nelson and Rockbridge Counties, well over 100 people lost their lives on that August night.

Massies Mill, in particular, received 27 inches of rain within about a 6-hour time frame. That's about as much rain as we've seen in all of 2019 so far.

If half of what fell over Massies Mill fell over the Roanoke Valley, the Roanoke River would rise to about 40 feet. That's 17 feet above what the river rose to during the Flood of '85. Camille is still the flood of record for the Maury River in Buena Vista, though.

Things have changed, both in forecasting and how these storms are communicated/covered. Phil Hysell is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Blacksburg. 

He tells 10 News that, at the time, there was "...1957 technology with a radar in Washington DC and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That was it for coverage. You could only see where the rain was falling. You had no idea how much rain, how heavy the rain was."

Now, the main radar we use to track storms is in Floyd County (along with neighboring radar sites in Raleigh, NC, Charleston, WV, Morristown, TN, etc.).

In addition to more radar coverage, there's now plenty of automated weather stations and upgraded satellite technology that gives us up-to-the-minute weather observations. We also have social media to thank for the flurry of reports that come in with each storm that develops.

These technological advances have us more prepared for when a storm like this happens again. Knowledge gained from Camille may also help now too. 

Hysell says, "If you live along side of a mountain or a slope, pay attention to some subtle signs; that you see cracks in your foundation, cracks in the soil. Do you see trees leaning severely in one direction?"


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