Bay St. Louis, Miss. (WVUE) - Hurricane Camille smashed into the Mississippi Gulf Coast in August of 1969, leaving widespread destruction in its path. At least 259 people died, but Steve Treutel survived the Category 5 storm, after riding it out with his family in their Hancock County home.
The Treutel home was just about two blocks from the beach -- the perfect playground for a 9-year-old boy and where Steve Treutel’s fascination with weather begins.
“When you go through an experience so severe as that, so young in your life, you’re either going to go one way or another," Treutel said. "Either you are going to be extremely afraid of it, you are going to move away from anything around hurricanes, or you’re going to draw yourself into it as a passion. I think I probably chose the latter route.”
As Camille’s surge moved in, Treutel and his brother laid in bed in their Bay Saint Louis home.
“Seeing like an aquarium with water building up on the outside of the window we thought it was rain,” he said.
His mother’s account from The Daily Herald on the storm’s 20th anniversary tells a frightening tale:
For the children, Treutel said it was mostly an adventure.
“I was too naive to be afraid," he said.
His mother’s recollection was more dire. The Daily Herald reported:
For Treutel, the memory of the wind still stands out.
“It was like the sound of freight trains, just constant wind," he recalled. "Amazing. I was probably afraid of that more than the water or anything else because it was something you’ve never ever heard before. The sound of chunk, chuck, up against the brick.”
Then, there was a break in the winds.
“We did experience the eye," Treutel said. "We could hear folks from probably a half of mile away screaming for help and it was a ‘Help! Help! We need help!’ and there wasn’t anything that we could do. It made me feel pretty insubstantial.”
Four feet of water flooded his home.
“The trees and all were completely bare. All the leaves were blown off and a lot of the trees were gone. It was like a whole new dawn," he said. “Things were never going to be the same.”
And that would be the truth, for the Treutels and so many along the Gulf Coast.