Friday, August 16, 2019

Episode 486 (8-19-19): Recalling the August 1969 Camille Catastrophe in Nelson County

Click to listen to episode (4:27)

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 8-16-19.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of August 19, 2019. This is a revised version of an episode from December 2013.

MUSIC – ~9 sec – instrumental.

This week, we feature a Virginia’s band’s music about land, water, and romance along one of the Old Dominion’s most famous geographic features.  The music also has echoes of an enormous and tragic flood event that took place 50 years ago this week.  Have listen for about 45 seconds.

MUSIC - ~ 46 sec – 0:30 to 1:12 and fade instrumental – “My mind is dark and troubled, with clouds coming low. When the bottle gets to empty, I know where to go. I take the old dirt road, beneath the scarred mountainside, and in the Rockfish River water, my loneliness subsides. The boots stomp along in perfect time; whiskey on her lips, she’s always on my mind. Of all the treasures in this world, I’ll take the nighttime, and my Blue Ridge girl.”

You’ve been listening to part of “Blue Ridge Girl,” by Chamomile and Whiskey, on the 2013 album “Wandering Boots,” from County Wide Records.  The band formed in Nelson County, a scenic and historic area whose dominant geographic influence is the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The Blue Ridge is also the place of origin for the Rockfish River, a James River tributary mentioned in the song.

Another phrase in the song—“beneath the scarred mountainside”—brings to mind the devastating and lingering effects of Hurricane Camille in 1969.  On August 19 of that year—two days after that category five hurricane’s deadly landfall along the Gulf Coast—Camille’s remnants became concentrated along the Blue Ridge in Nelson County, producing an official total of 27 inches of rain overnight in the Rockfish River basin and the adjacent Tye River basin.  The intense rains created flash floods, landslides, and flows of mud, vegetation, structures, and other materials.  The storm caused over 100 deaths in Nelson and left behind eroded slopes, altered channels, and debris that remain decades later.

Shaped by Camille’s power as well as countless other natural events and centuries of human activities, Nelson County’s Blue Ridge lands and waters continue today as primary influences on lives, livelihoods, and culture.

Thanks to Chamomile and Whiskey for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with about 25 more seconds of “Blue Ridge Girl.”

MUSIC – ~26 sec – instrumental.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaces Episode 192, 12-16-13.

“Blue Ridge Girl” and “Wandering Boots” are copyright by Chamomile and Whiskey and by County Wide Records, used with permission of Chamomile and Whiskey.   More information about Chamomile and Whiskey is available online at, and information about Charlottesville-based County Wide Records is available online at

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode. More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


Illustration of the path of Hurricane Camille, from the U.S. Department of Commerce/Environmental Science Services Administration, “The Virginia Floods: August 19-22, 1969,” September 1969, online (as PDF) at

Landslide above Davis Creek, a tributary of the Rockfish River, near Lovingston in Nelson County, Va., resulting from remnants of Hurricane Camille in August 1969. Image from U.S. Geological Survey, “Flood of August 1969 in Virginia,” Open-file Report 70-15, 1970; online (as PDF) at

Graph of daily mean stream flow, or discharge, in cubic feet per second (cfs) from August 18—August 23, 1969, at the U.S. Geological Survey gaging station on the Rockfish River near Greenfield in Nelson County, Va. Note the levels of as much as 30,000 cfs on August 20. Graph accessed at U.S. Geological Survey, National Water Information System, “USGS 02028500 ROCKFISH RIVER NEAR GREENFIELD, VA,” online at As of August 16, 2019, the historical mean discharge for August 20 at that location is 439 cfs (based on records since 1942). For a table of daily mean flow values at the Rapidan River gage near Ruckersville, see USGS Surface Water Daily Statistics for Virginia, online at; table of daily mean discharge for Greenfield site is online at this link.

Two photos above: Scenes from the Rockfish River in normal-flow times.  Upper photo—the Rockfish River's confluence with the James River (background), where the Virginia counties of Albemarle, Buckingham, and Nelson converge, July 2009.  Lower photo: the Rockfish River on County Route 634 in Nelson County, Va., March 3, 2018.


Used for Audio

Jeffrey Halverson, “Unprecedented rain: Hurricane Camille’s deadly flood in the Blue Ridge mountains,” Aug. 19, 2013, in The Washington Post, online at

Robert Hopper and Julie Still, “Assessment of the Rockfish River in Nelson County, Virginia,” Oct. 18, 2004, for the Virginia Water Resources Research Center/STEP Program.  For access to this report, please contact the Virginia Water Center at (540) 231-5624 or

Kevin Myatt, “Camille’s remnants devastated Nelson County,” Aug. 14, 2019, in The Roanoke Times, online at

Nelson County Government, online at

Lisa Provence, “Flooded with memories: Nelson County 37 years after Camille,” Sep. 21, 2006, in The [Charlottesville] Hook, online at  This article includes several historical photos.

Lisa Romano, “Hurricane Camille (August 1969),” Sep. 9, 2010, in Virginia Foundation for the Humanities’ Encyclopedia Virginia, online at

For More Information about Hurricane Camille and its Impacts

National Hurricane Center and Central Pacific Hurricane Center, “Hurricanes in History,” online at

National Weather Service Mobile-Pensacola, “Hurricane Camille—August 17, 1969,” August 2019, online at

Lynchburg News & Advance, “Looking back at Hurricane Camille, 50 years later, ”August 9-18, 2019.  This is a series of articles and photographs.

U.S. Department of Commerce/Environmental Science Services Administration, “The Virginia Floods: August 19-22, 1969,” September 1969, online (as PDF) at

U.S. Geological Survey, “Flood of August 1969 in Virginia,” Open-file Report 70-15, 1970; online (as PDF) at

Garnett P. Williams and Harold P. Guy, “Erosional and Depositional Aspects of Hurricane Camille in Virginia, 1969,” U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Professional Paper 804, 1973, online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Weather/Natural Disasters” subject category.

Following are links to some other episodes on flooding in Virginia.

Episode 272, 6-29-15 – on the 1995 floods in Madison County.
Episode 328, 8-8-16 – on flash flooding in general, featuring “Rain in the Valley” by the Steel Wheels.
Episode 442, 10-15-18 – on the high water marker for the New River at Radford.


The episode—the audio, extra information, or sources—may help with the following Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs).

2013 Music SOLs
SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme 3.10 – impacts on survival of species, including effects of fire, flood, disease, and erosion on organisms.
4.9 – Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decisions, hazard mitigation, cost/benefit assessments).

Grades K-6 Interrelationships in Earth/Space Systems Theme
4.6 – weather conditions, phenomena, and measurements.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Earth Science Course
ES.12 – weather and climate.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Virginia Studies Course
VS.1 – impact of geographic features on people, places, and events in Virginia history.
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.
WG.3 – how regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.