|by Roy Rotenberry, PDG|
Prompted by the disastrous hurricane Camille, The Lions of Virginia Foundation was founded in 1972 by the Lions of Virginia.In August 1969 the Lions Clubs of Northern Virginia received calls for help, from fellow Lions in Nelson County, Virginia as they tried to help neighbors who lost relatives, homes, food, clothing and in some cases everything they owned as hurricane Camille settled in the mountains west of Charlottesville, Virginia. The Northern Virginia Clubs did organize drives for donations of mattresses, blankets, clothes, food, and medicine, enough to fill three tractor/ trailers. The inability to respond quickly with funds to help in a natural disaster such as this, caused the District leaders to develop a plan for a state wide foundation, operated by all of the Lions Districts. By the summer of 1972, most of the paperwork was complete, the State Corporation Commission approved the Articles of Incorporation for The Lions of Virginia Foundation. The Multiple District 24 Council of Governors, made up of District Governors Roy Rotenberry, District 24A, Mercer Motley 24B, Carlyle Reeves 24C, John Wroten 24D, Carlton Saul 24E and Clarence Slagel 24F worked with the committee, ironing out the details of the foundation. District Governor Roy Rotenberry was elected by the Council to serve as the President of the new board with the responsibility of arranging the first meeting of the board, to elect officers and directors from all six Districts and to approve recommendation made by the committee. The first meeting of the board was set for May 1973 in Hampton, Virginia. The elections were held and Past International Director William Hix, who had served as legal council for the committee was elected President. All recommendations of the committee were approved with some minor changes. Other changes have accrued over the 30 period since 1972. One of the goals that I remember, was that we wanted to raise $250,000 over a period of years and maintain at least that much to be used in case of another natural disaster. That goal has been doubled and more than a million dollars has been given as grants.It took a hurricane to get us to focus on a problem effecting all Lions in Virginia, but not just any hurricane would do, we settled for Hurricane Camille, the second strongest hurricane ever recorded. Following is some facts.
A look back at Hurricane Camille
Hurricane Camille, the USA's second strongest 20th century hurricane, hit the Gulf Coast in 1969.Camille became a hurricane on Aug. 15, 1969 south of Cuba and began quickly growing that night as it moved into the Gulf of Mexico. On the morning of Aug. 17, when Camille was centered about 250 miles south of Mobile, Ala., an Air Force reconnaissance plane measured a barometric pressure of 26.84 inches of mercury and winds of more than 200 mph.As Camille moved inland across Mississippi, it weakened to a tropical depression with winds less than 39 mph. It continued to the northeast into the Appalachians of southern Virginia. Here, the storm's remnants produced torrential rain that killed another 113 people in flash floods and landslides.
The Nelson County Flood of 1969
History may remember Hurricane Camille as the monster storm that wreaked havoc among the Gulf states. If Virginia is not included in the public memory, that's because lines of communication—telephones, highways, mail service—were down in rural Nelson County, Virginia. By the time news crews found out what the dying remnants of Camille had done to this sparsely populated county on the east side of the Blue Ridge, the nation's attention was diverted elsewhere. Even the nearby communities of Waynesboro and Charlottesville, beset with their own flooding, took awhile to learn of the devastation.When Camille arrived, a large tropical air mass was already in place over Nelson County, dumping torrential rains. Soil on the steep mountain slopes was supersaturated. Then, on the night of August 19, 1969, rainfall to challenge existing world records for 24 hour periods fell overnight. Amounts in excess of 25 inches—and possibly as high as 37 inches in one area—were recorded. Whole sections of mountainsides, including trees and soil right down to bedrock, slid off into the narrow hollows, damming the streams. Water and debris built up tremendous pressure behind these false dams, finally breaking loose in raging torrents, taking entire settlements out with them.People fleeing their homes remember the strobe-light effect of constant lightning which they used to find their way through the night woods to high ground or to a neighbor's house. They describe the experience as similar to walking beneath a waterfall. A baby being carried in her father's arms had to be turned over to keep from drowning. In the hellish night, one family that had built several homes along tiny Davis Creek lost 21 members to a surging wall of water—parents, aunts, uncles, children, even babies. The county itself lost 120 people—more than 1 percent of its population. Some bodies were never recovered. Some bodies that were recovered were never identified.The mountainsides still bear the scars. From US 29 running north/south through the county, patches of bedrock not yet covered by vegetation on the steep slopes are grim reminders of that August night. And the people—who still look nervously out their windows when it rains—bear their own deep wounds.