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"Walking on 56, the water was about knee deep," continues Raines.
It was as bright as day the night Warren Raines was orphaned. That Tuesday in 1969– still known as "the 19th" in Nelson County– dawned a dog day of August, far removed from the cultural watershed known as Woodstock winding down to the north, far removed from the carnage known as Hurricane Camille that had just killed 174 people as it steamrolled through the Gulf Coast.Official state numbers show 53 died in Davis Creek– and 28 of those were listed as missing. It seemed preposterous." He read the historical marker at the Nelson County Wayside on U. 29 at Woods Mill that lists 114 deaths in Nelson and describes the 25 inches of rain— numbers that many claim are too low. "One of the things that really touched me– whole families were swept away," says Bechtel, mentioning the Raines and the Huffmans.In the wake of last year's Hurricane Katrina, two books have been published detailing the devastation of Camille, until last August the benchmark of deadly hurricanes in the Gulf Coast: When Bechtel moved here around 20 years ago, he started hearing stories about the tragic deaths and devastation in Nelson County from Hurricane Camille. "The reason is that whole families were living together."That night, this whole valley was Tye River," says Raines.
Then 14, he survived the deadly waters by clinging to a willow tree.But in central Virginia, it was the intense, unrelenting rain that poured for eight hours and unearthed the already saturated Blue Ridge mountains.