Former Biloxi mayor to headline ‘Camille’ presentation

Biloxi Mayor Danny Guice and his wife were in Destin, Fla. in August 1969 when forecasters announced that Hurricane Camille was expected to strike that popular coastal community, so the Guices returned home, only to find that the storm had also taken a turn, zeroing in on Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The next few days would forever change Guice’s life, as well as Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Guice will tell the harrowing experiences of Hurricane Camille, the destruction left in the storm’s wake and how the community rebuilt during “Camille: The 45th Anniversary Remembrance,” today at 2 p.m. at the Saenger Theater in downtown Biloxi. The presentation takes place 45 years to the day the Category 5 storm struck Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Tickets to the Saenger affair are $10 each and available at the Biloxi Visitors Center.

The three-term mayor’s 15-minute interview will be part of an afternoon that will include the half-hour ’70s-era documentary “A Lady Called Camille,” which stars the late Wade and Julie Guice, the husband-and-wife team that served as Civil Defense directors for Harrison County and Biloxi, respectively. The Camille documentary will be prefaced by a three-minute video introduction by Mayor A.J. Holloway, filmed at the Camille memorial in August 2005, just days before Hurricane Katrina left the site and the rest of Biloxi in shambles.

“Hurricane Camille is the original monster storm,” said Kevin O’Brien of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, which is co-sponsoring the Saenger presentation. “This marks the first time that Danny Guice sits down and talks about what he saw, how it changed the city, and how he and the community went about rebuilding Biloxi.”

Both Guice and current Mayor Holloway admit Camille packed a destructive force that seems to have been greater than Katrina.

“The other day someone asked me if I thought I’d ever see a storm as powerful as Camille,” Holloway said recently. “No,” I said, “and I still haven’t.

“Katrina, for all of its destruction, was not nearly the strength of Camille.

“The National Hurricane Center today will tell you that Camille had sustained winds of 190 mph and a record storm surge of 24.6 feet. Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 with 130 mph sustained winds, with a storm surge of 27.8 feet.

“Anyone who has been through either will tell you that those numbers are low.”

After the Saenger presentation, the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer will conduct its annual Camille memorial ceremony, at the Camille memorial, at Bellman and U.S. 90, Saturday at 4:30 p.m.