Story by Chris Graham
Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce executive director Ben Carter was thinking of Hurricane Camille on Tuesday.
Many locals do look back at Camille whenever the region is in the crosshairs of a hurricane – as is the case right now with Isabel making a beeline for Western Virginia.
But Carter wasn’t in Virginia when Camille wreaked its havoc in 1969.
He was down in Louisiana.
“Most people do not realize that Camille hit Louisiana first,” Carter said Tuesday.
Camille left a wide swath of the South – from the Gulf Coast all the way up to Virginia – in ruins. There were no deaths in Louisiana, though, Carter recalled, because everyone, “and I mean everyone,” Carter said, “evacuated the area.”
That didn’t mean that the damage there was any less.
“The devastation in Louisiana, in Venice and Boothville, was more devastating than it was in Mississippi, for instance, because the towns were washed out to sea,” Carter said.
“Nothing was left to see except concrete foundations where homes once stood. In Buras, La., a few miles north of Boothville, they had three feet of water on the second floor of the high school,” Carter remembered.
Dean Nimax of Verona spent his day Tuesday trying to get his daughter, Jennifer, home from school in Tidewater.
Before he left, he made sure that he was also packed and ready to go, he said, in case his Coast Guard auxiliary unit – the Waynesboro-based Flotilla 82 – is called into service.
Jim Belcher of Waynesboro, for his part, is also thinking of Coastal Virginia.
“I’m calling friends down there and offering refuge,” Belcher said Tuesday.
Belcher, like Carter, thought back to Camille as he went about his day.
“I remember moving to Waynesboro from Tidewater in late fall of 1969 and seeing the damage from Camille along U.S. 250. Talk about great first impressions,” he said.
Belcher lives in the Club Court area – which was flooded out twice in 1996. He lives out of the floodplain, though – as does Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave.
Being out of the direct line of fire doesn’t mean that you don’t pay attention to what’s going on, of course.
“We are making sure we have batteries and extra supplies in case we lose power,” Landes said Tuesday.
Landes said he will also pay close attention to local weather updates – which is what most if not all of us will be doing as Isabel makes her entree into the Shenandoah Valley.
Many will also be paying attention to more spiritual concerns.
“Like many residents, I have witnessed the damage and past hurricanes and tropical storms, and pray that Virginia will not receive the brunt of Hurricane Isabel,” Landes said.