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Inland Hurricanes: Hurricane Camille and Nelson County Virginia – August 19th, 1969

Those of you who have attended my seminars have heard about how hurricanes can cause extensive damage to places that aren’t near the coast.  The general public has been made more aware of this in the last few years, as Irene caused prolific destruction in Vermont and northern New England, while Sandy caused extensive inland damage in central and northern New Jersey.  Both Irene and Sandy are examples of the flood and wind damage that a hurricane can inflict on inland areas.

Meteorologists and insurance loss control professionals have long understood that hurricanes are not just a coastal phenomena.  The insurance industry began to more widely recognize inland hurricane exposures several years ago, as inland flood and windstorm claims began to proliferate after storms.  I’ve attached a link to an excellent article from AIR Worldwide discussing some of the science behind inland hurricane exposure:

Yesterday was the anniversary of a terribly tragic example of the inland destruction of hurricanes.  

On the night August 19th, 1969, Nelson County was struck by the remnants of Hurricane Camille.  That night, Camille dumped about two feet of rain onto Nelson County, causing extensive landslides and floods.  Over 150 people died, and several dozen bodies were never found.

I’ve linked an outstanding article from yesterday’s Washington Post Weather Blog: 

Much of the damage in Nelson County that night was from Debris Flow, which is basically a fast-moving landslide.  Meteorologists have identified “Debris Flow” as a hazard associated with inland hurricane exposures, and Debris Flow in Nelson County during Camille caused extensive property damage and was responsible for much of the loss of life.  Even today, parts of certain mountainsides in Nelson County are still denuded. 

Camille wasn’t an isolated incident: On June 27th, 1995, Madison County, Virginia, suffered landslides after a series of rainstorms.  The USGS published a report after the Madison County event, noting that “scientists have documented 51 historic debris-flow events between 1844 and 1985 in parts of the Appalachians – most of them in the Blue Ridge area.”

Last summer, our family took our vacation in Nelson County, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Mountains.  Nelson County is fabulous and beautiful, and a marvelous place for a family vacation.  So, two things to leave you with: Please consider that hurricane damage can occur far inland.  And, enjoy this photo of Nelson County from our vacation, and please consider a visit.  It’s a beautiful part of our country: