On August 17-18, 1969, Hurricane Camille struck the Gulf Coast of Mississippi as a Category 5 hurricane, with wind gusts in excess of 200 miles an hour and a 22-foot storm surge. The damage Camille caused was extreme, and since that time, Camille became the standard by which US hurricanes are judged.
...Until Sunday, that is, when Hurricane Katrina struck just a few miles west of Camille's landfall. Katrina appears to have struck land as a strong Category 4, though as a bigger storm in size with a comparable storm surge.
Much has been made of the similarities between Camille and Katrina, whether in geography, strength, and impact. One major difference is being virtually ignored, however. Camille was the third named storm in the Atlantic Basin in 1969. Katrina was the eleventh such storm in 2005.
The hardiest skeptics of global warming shouldn't have needed Katrina to correct their thinking. There has been plenty of easily understandable evidence available for years now (global glacial retreat is but one example). Even this year, the fact there were five named Atlantic hurricanes this July alone was completely unprecedented.
In the end, what Katrina has wrought -- the possibly permanent destruction of a major metropolitan area -- will hopefully do more to rattle the cages of the naysayers in our government than any statistical blitz. After all, back during the Dustbowl of the 1930s, federal government action to support farmers didn't take off until a cloud of dust had traveled across the country and literally settled on Washington DC as farm support hearings commenced.
Another Atlantic hurricane bears remembering in this context. Hurricane Mitch, also a Category 5, flooded out large sections of Central American and caused tens of thousands of deaths from October 26-29, 1998. Today, September 1, 2005, a tropical depression has formed in the central Atlantic. In the next 24 hours, she will likely be named Maria. With an M.