Credit: Encyclopedia Virginia
Created: December 2021

Recalling the Destruction of Hurricane Camille

In this audio clip, Marvin and Maxine Ripley recall the devastation wreaked when Hurricane Camille swept through Central Virginia on the night of August 19, 1969. At the time, the Ripleys were a young couple living near the confluence of the James River and Rockfish River in Howardsville.


Maxine 0:00
I’m Maxine Ripley.

Marvin 0:01
Marvin Ripley. The Rockfish River was probably eight to ten feet higher than the James and that’s the reason you look at it the rain and it cut the corner the water then cut it with some water coming down the river but it was skirting across the corner here and that really, really began to hammer the village here.

Maxine 0:20
It had been raining all the night before and just like a drone on the roof and then the morning it was time for us to get up to go to work. Our neighbor Mr. Baber came and he was knocking on the side of the house and he said you need to get out of the house now. He said the water’s getting ready to come in and we left we grabbed my parents lived with me and my son was a year and a half old and we grabbed what we could and our animals and then I realized I’d forgotten my bottle – his bottle – and my pocketbook so when I went back into the house I was walking about knee deep at that point. It was flooded up to the second floor and then the mud and all was what made the floors collapse and and the walls kind of came in so it destroyed it we weren’t able to salvage it. We had gotten up to higher ground and we were watching everything go by and then we noticed that the bridge over to Buckingham it just sort of lifted up with the water and just floated on down – sections of it – started floating down the river and then all these tractor and trailers were floating by and and the the trees they were breaking and it’s just cracking it sounds like a shotgun.

Marvin 1:40
And It was just so darn much mud. I mean the roads the railroad track were all just you know twisted up the biggest mess you want to see and it was such a long time and a smell you know just just I don’t know it had an unusual smell to it but it it but it was so darn muddy and nasty and, uh, uh…

Maxine 2:09
on our property up there near the bridge. There was one body there and it was one body over here. It was a small I think a baby on here. And then it was a lot of cattle, dead cattle, and I think that’s the smell was so so bad. It was summer, it was hot and then we ended up at the church. All we had to have all kinds of shots and things like that. So, but it was a trying time it was