On August 17, 1969, a rare category 5 hurricane hit Mississippi and tracked north as it weakened into a tropical depression. Hurricane Camille, however, took a sharp, unexpected eastward turn and moved over the mountains into Virginia.
Taking the state by complete surprise in the night, the storm caused severe landslides and floods in the western counties, where 113 people died. Nelson County received twenty-eight inches of rain in eight hours, an amount that the National Weather Service called “the probable maximum rainfall which meteorologists compute to be theoretically possible.”
The rain swelled rivers, knocking out 133 bridges statewide in its rush to the James. With two days of warning, Richmonders were able to prepare as the James reached a record height of 28.6 feet.
The National Guard patrolled flooded areas in the city, like Shockoe Bottom, shown above. No deaths occurred in Richmond, though this historic storm left $9 million in damages when its floodwaters receded.