RICHMOND – Fifty years ago today Hurricane Camille slipped into Virginia overnight and caused massive inland flooding and mudslides leaving more than 150 dead and cutting scars in the landscape across Virginia which still show today. Devastation from the storm included flash flooding, inland flooding, river flooding, mudslides, prolonged power outages and washed out roadways and structures. The storm remains Virginia’s deadliest natural disaster a half century later.
Camille dropped the equivalent of six months’ worth of rain–27 inches–on Nelson County in one night. When the sun came up, Virginians found over 100 bridges, roadways or railways had been washed away or damaged, bringing transportation to a standstill, and more than 900 buildings and structures damaged or destroyed.
With the memories of that horrible night in August 50 years ago still fresh in many Virginian’s minds, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) is encouraging Virginians to use the anniversary as a cue to be prepared, not scared. Camille reminds us that hurricanes are a statewide threat, not just a coastal concern, as the worst damage occurred hundreds of miles inland.
Each year state, federal and local governments, private-sector entities and non-profits work together to prepare the Commonwealth and its residents for all hazards, including hurricanes. It takes the entire Commonwealth working together year-round to ready for the annual June 1 to Nov. 30 Atlantic hurricane season. Individuals, households, businesses and organizations must take continual steps to prepare as well. The peak of Atlantic hurricane season typically occurs from mid-August to late October.
Prevention, protection and mitigation before a disaster makes the response and recovery more sustainable and successful. The preparedness steps listed below will not only protect you and your family from hurricanes, but from other threats and hazards that can, or will, occur:
• Visit DCR.virginia.gov/vfris to learn the flood risk for your home and business.
• Contact an insurance agent or call the National Flood Insurance Program at 888.379.9531 or visit Floodsmart.gov purchase a flood insurance policy. Remember, it takes 30 days for a flood insurance policy to take effect, don’t wait till you see a storm coming to purchase a plan!
• Coastal Virginians should learn their evacuation zone now and make a plan to prepare their home and business at KnowYourZoneVA.org.
• All Virginians should take simple steps to prepare for a hurricane by storing critical documentation in a safe place, documenting the condition of their property before damages occur with a camera or smartphone, purchasing emergency preparedness items to sustain your family for days or weeks after a disaster, and by making a family communication plan. Visit VAemergency.gov/hurricanes to learn more.
• VDEM encourages you to work with, support, and volunteer for, charitable organizations in your community to make them even stronger before disaster strikes. Contact your local government and your local office of emergency management to access local preparedness resources and information.
To be resilient, you must be prepared. Disasters don’t plan ahead but you can. Get a kit; make a plan; stay informed. Visit VAemergency.gov for more information.