Eight Months of Rain in One Night

Published:August 21, 2009 by Brendan Wolfe

Hurricane Camille, August 1969

With all the hoopla over the fortieth anniversary of Woodstock, another anniversary has been lost: Hurricane Camille, which swept through central Virginia on August 19, 1969. Remember all the rain-soaked hippies up in New York? Thank Hurricane Camille. Here in Virginia, however, it rained a bit harder. Okay, a lot harder:

Camille’s official rainfall total is 27.35 inches in eight hours, says [Roar of the Heavens author Stefan] Bechtel. But he adds, “Everyone acknowledges that’s a minimum.” 

At Davis Creek, the estimate is more than 40 inches. Exact measures at most locations in Nelson are impossible, given that rain gauges measure only a few inches—and most of the gauges washed away. 

Other receptacles provided some clues to the downpour’s volume. For instance, a once-empty 55-gallon drum on the back of a pickup truck was found with 31 inches of water—in a location that wasn’t in the center of the storm.

Compare that to Charlottesville’s rainfall so far in this year: 22.79 inches in a wetter-than-usual eight months. “You’re talking about eight months of rain in one night,” says Bechtel.

Read the full story in The Hook, which describes the “rain-making machine, dumping so much rain that birds drowned in trees and many survivors had to cup their hands over their faces to breathe.” And read our entry on Camille here.