One of Nature’s Greatest Storms

It was just before midnight August 17th, 1969, when Camille arrived at George Mixons house in Henderson Point, Mississippi.

“The windows exploded in the front of the house,” describes Mixon. Now Harrison Countys fire marshal, Mixon was a 22-year-old Sheriffs deputy at the time. He and his father and his younger brother were in this house.

Just down Highway 90 in Gulfport, Linda Rouse was just starting her career at the civil defense office she now directs.

“I think we were as prepared as we could bebut with the preparation we had it still wasnt enough,” says Rouse.

Hurricane forecasts then were iffy and with satellites that orbited only once every 12 hours, the forecast would change a lot with each new image. By the time anyone knew where Camille was going, there was little time to get ready or get out.

The Mixon’s had been through Hurricane Betsy a few years earlier, and thought they were prepared. When the first wave brought in three feet of water, their furniture was safe atop sawhorses about this high. But this was Camille, not Betsy, and the next wave didnt stop the water rose to an incredible 24 feet–to the top of this wall.

Camilles storm surge was unstoppable-a moving mountain of water.

“We had to take and swim about 15 feet across the living room where we were to the front windows, climb up the fireplace, and was the house started to move we had a decision to makestay with the chimney or go with the house,” remembers Mixon.” We went with the house.”

The house moved about 80 feet when the roof they were on finally lodged in some pine treesthats where the three men spent a horrifying pitch black night–standing in the water, beaten by wind, rain, branches, and flying chunks of nearby homes.

A night of terror was followed by a morning of dazed disbelief. When the water subsided at Henderson Point, the Mixon’s–all three–had survived, and made the two mile walk to Pass Christian along the beach

“And as we got back there we met a county patrolman who I know and he told me that I needed to go up to the fire station and scratch my name off the known list of dead people,” says Mixon.

Much of highway 90 was gone and the communities along it looked like they had been flattened by war. 85% of all buildings in Henderson Point and Pass Christian were destroyed or heavily damaged.

Gulfport and other communities along the coast didnt fare much better.

“Its very overwhelming,” says Rouse. “Its an emotional thing and still is today to recallits just something thats beyond belief.”

“We took 26 bodies in a pickup truck down to Memorial Hospital,” explains Mixon. “And they only had room for 8.”

131 people died that day in Mississippi, and with torrential flooding in Virginia, Camille took another 127 lives. 68 people remain missing to this day.

Many that survived lost everything.

Still, most people stayedwith a rebuilding spirit that was symbolized by flying the American flag.

“And with that spirit the Coast rebuilt-and I might say-very well,” says Rouse. “So we really are proud of that and were gonna do everything we can to prepare the people of our community for another Camille and were gonna pray we dont have one. ”

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