Monday, September 1, 2008


Hurricane Gustav has now hit the Louisiana coast, and I hope and pray that N'Awlins withstands the assault and survives, showing that the work done since the failures from the Katrina disaster of three years ago have been successful.

But my concerns are in Biloxi, Mississippi, where my cousin Justin is stationed at the base, a newly minted Marine. He told me in a Facebook note a week ago that if Gustav turned out to be a Category 4 hurricane, then they'd be evacuated. I haven't heard from him since, so I'm assuming his unit was transferred elsewhere.

No idea yet how deadly and destructive Gustav will turn out to be, but it will be measured up against Katrina. Before that meteorological bitch nearly destroyed the Big Easy and before Hurricane Andrew rampaged across Florida, I think you have to go back to August of 1969 to find a comparable storm of such magnitude - Camille.

And that's just what Dr. Sam Beckett did in an episode of 'Quantum Leap' from October 2nd, 1991.. In "Hurricane - August 17, 1969". Here's a plot summary from the book "The Complete 'Quantum Leap' Book" by Louis Chunovic:

"Sam becomes Deputy Sheriff Archie Necaise. He finds himself in Jackson Point, Mississippi, with nurse girlfriend Cissy Davis.

Hurricane Camille is about to hit with deadly force. Archie and Cissy are trying to convince the local residents to flee the storm, but the locals are having a hurricane party and refuse to leave.
Sam learns he must return to the party and evacuate the tenants or they will be killed. He also must prevent Cissy from returning to her own house, where she, too, will die. Complications arise when Cissy's ex-boyfriend shows up with his family."

I've left off the last two sentences of the summary, just in case you someday want to check out the episode for yourself. And those are pictures from the episode.

The episode was written by Chris Ruppenthal and directed by Michael Watkins.

Here is a recap of what happened in the Biloxi area beginning on August 17th, 1969:

On the night of August 17, 1969 Hurricane Camille hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Many had scoffed at the forecast of unprecedented high winds and expected a rising tide, but in the early morning hours of August 18th [they] were firm believers. Final data on the storm reported wind velocity in excess of 210 miles per hour and a tidal surge in excess of 24 feet topped with at least a 10 foot sea. Many of those who refused to believe the forecast and stayed at home to ride out the storm lived to regret it.
Some did not live through it.

The latest survey reveals 134 deaths; 27 missing; 8,931 injured; 5,662 homes destroyed and 13,915 suffering major losses. This is not counting the loss of businesses, other structures, and much of the natural beauty of the Mississippi Coast. The total destruction area of Harrison County alone was 68 square miles. Because of ample warning the death toll was not as high as in some previous hurricanes, but the destruction was unprecedented in United States history to that time.

Hurricane Camille is a bench mark in the American hurricane experience. Although Camille hit an area that had a relatively small population by today's standards - it still provided a horrific firsthand lesson of what a hurricane of maximum intensity can do to the man-made environment. Hurricane Andrew (1992) destroyed more property, and Hurricane Katrina resulted in many more fatalities - but Hurricane Camille remains the strongest storm to ever enter the United States mainland on record. As Camille marched toward the Mississippi coast in darkness, brick by brick, civilization from near Ansley to Biloxi, was erased. Homes, motels, apartments, restaurants, and other buildings were swept off their foundations, and deposited in mountains of rubble together with trees and automobiles. The local effect resembled an atomic bombing. Camille's 200 mph wind gusts and 25 foot storm surge, destroyed 100 years of growth and progress along the Mississippi coast in only three hours. Survivors near the eye reported a deafening roar of wind, that was by itself truly terrifying, often compared to speeding freight train. Although the damage in all of southern Mississippi was appalling, within about 1/2 mile from the ocean, most of the structures seemed to have just vanished. Only footings and slabs remained. Even plumbing systems had been removed.
After Camille moved inland, the storm weakened, but not before triggering catastrophic flash flooding and landslides over the mountains of the southeastern United States. Torrential rains poured over the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, with 27 inches measured in one location. The cascading flood waters rushed down the mountain slopes, sweeping away roads, bridges, and buildings. More than 100 were killed in Virginia and Tennessee alone.

I compiled that report from several sources. These are the links for more information and pictures:

I'm not sure if Hurricane Andrew ever figured in a TV plotline, although it was mentioned in one of the 'Police Squad' movie sequels in the "Naked Gun" franchise. Katrina has figured in a few shows like 'Bones', 'Friday Night Lights', 'Guiding Light', and 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'. (A running plotline from 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' was due to a fictional hurricane from the same season.) And then there's 'K-Ville', a New Orleans police procedural as the city rebuilt.

O'Bviously there's no way to tell now if Gustav will also have a presence in Toobworld, but that's hardly important at the moment. Let's just hope its destructive powers are kept to a minimum.

Toby O'B

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