Email: | Twitter: @WWLTV

More than 35 years before a hurricane named Katrina - Camille was the name that people along the Mississippi Gulf Coast feared. Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of that devastating storm. We look back now, through the eyes of former Channel 4 anchor Bill Elder, who died in 2003. He covered Camille in 1969 and remembered it for the 30th anniversary in 1999.

During the nighttime hours of August 17, 1969, people who lived along the Mississippi coast and in south Louisiana did the best they could to get ready for one of the fiercest storms in modern history.

As dawn broke on the Mississippi coast, the world was stunned at what it saw. Camille's 210 mile per hour winds and 20 foot seas caused massive destruction that people have spent decades trying to describe.

'This scene on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is almost like an endless nightmare, almost like an endless one act play with a macabre ending,' is how Elder reported it at the time.

'Some of the luxury hotel units along the gulf coast just look like somebody had come in with a giant hand and swept everything out of sight,' said then-Vice President Spiro Agnew at a news conference after visiting the scene.

Along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Camille killed more than 130 people and destroyed 6,000 homes. For many people in the storm's path, their lives would never be the same.

In the days ahead, amazing stories of survival would become part of the storm's legendary history.

'We went upstairs and rescued the pet dog up the stairway and the house would keep on crunching, crunching, tearing and ripping, nails coming out and we thought, 'Oh lord, here's what we're going to do. We're going to die right here and now,'' said one survivor.

Hotel owner Henry Fortner told one of the most incredible stories.

'Actually one fellow slept through the whole hurricane in his room and we awakened him this morning and told him about it. He slept in this building all night long,' Fortner said.

The damage from Camille wasn't limited to Mississippi. Flood-prone areas in Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes were also devastated, prompting President Richard Nixon to declare them disaster areas.

Legendary meteorologist Nash Roberts, an expert on forecasting hurricanes, even wrote a book about the extreme Hurricane Camille.

'I knew by Saturday night about where it was going to go in. I was pretty sure. I had a pretty good idea what the velocities were going to be but I didn't think that the storm surge would be as high as it was,' he said in the 1999 interview with Elder.

Roberts said that even though there are more satellites and computers to help meteorologists today, he had no trouble forecasting Camille.

'I didn't find it difficult to forecast at all. It moved very rapidly. It didn't zigzag anywhere at all. It had a straight shot for where it was going.'

Camille taught us many lessons and much has been improved since she blasted ashore on that fateful August night. But all the experts agree that if there is one fact that remains the same, even in this age of advanced technology, it is that we must always respect the sea and its awesome force.

Read or Share this story: