During the hot summer month of August in 1969, Hurricane Camille, a category 5 hurricane with winds ranging around 172 mph, roared ashore over the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana and Mississippi. While not the deadliest or most destructive of hurricanes in history, Hurricane Camille is notorious for the pointless loss of life that occurred when a group of party-goers foolishly decided to ignore the warnings and opted to ride out the storm in an apartment rather than seek shelter and safety. Unfortunately, their decision cost them their lives, and brought the term "Hurricane Party" into our vocabulary.
Hurricane parties aren't anything new to the residents of the Gulf Coast. When hurricane season arrives on the first of June every year, people start to keep a closer watch on the weather, just in case a tropical storm gathers enough strength to form into a hurricane. One might think that the proper thing to do would be to heed the warnings and advice to evacuate, but in this case, some people bent on challenging the storm's fury with alcohol opted to stay at home and party down.
The national mood during the summer of 1969 was captured forever at a little known farmer's field in Upstate New York known as Woodstock. It was a time of rock and roll, free love, drugs, and counter-culture idealism. In the Gulf Coast, already well known for it's "Let the Good Times Roll" attitude, the approach of another summer hurricane was regarded by many, as just another excuse to celebrate life in defiance of imminent danger. Camille arrived to take up the challenge on Sunday, August 17 with a storm surge at least 22 feet high and winds approaching 190 mph.
The death toll in the wake of Hurricane Camille massive destruction is at least 255. Although the story of a hurricane party is disputed, eight people that did decide to stay in their apartment building perished when the building was destroyed by the force of the storm's winds. Thus the term Hurricane Party came to represent the idea that defying Mother Nature by partying is never a good idea.
Nevertheless, there are always those that will opt to ignore the advance warnings and remain behind when danger threatens. Not everyone, of course, does so just to have an excuse to throw a party. Many are home-bound or may be destitute without the means or the ability to access some form of transportation that could carry them to safer ground. On the other hand, however, there are those that simply refuse to leave their home for security and other reasons, such as not wanting to abandon their pets. In the light of the destruction of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, there is little doubt that many of those that stayed behind did so for some of these reasons and many others that will never be known.
The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico lies directly in the path of the next tropical storm or hurricane, creating a significant threat to life, environment, real estate and indeed the very habitability by all species. Having a Hurricane Party in advance of the storm's oil drenched surge of waves and wind, sure to flood not only the low-lying wetlands, bayous and rivers of Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida, but the homes and businesses of millions of people as well, is not likely to happen ever again.