Camille, a nasty storm that brought heavy flooding and 200-mph (320-kph) winds to the Gulf Coast and later Virginia, was one of only three Category 5 hurricanes to hit the Continental U.S. since 1900. (The others were Andrew in 1992, which helped change emergency preparedness policy, and the "Labor Day" Hurricane of 1935, which shows up later on this list.) After forming near the Cayman Islands in August 1969, the storm first blew through Cuba at a Category 3 level and later intensified on its way to Mississippi. It weakened to a tropical storm before it reached Virginia, but Camille continued to pour upward of 20 inches (51 centimeters) of rain as well as flash flooding and mudslides on a region just 120 miles (193 kilometers) from the nation's capital. The storm resulted in 256 deaths and more than $1.4 billion in damage [source: National Weather Service].
Camille played an important role in hurricane tracking in that it spawned the creation of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which ranks storms from categories 1 to 5 based on wind speed. Category 1 hurricanes blow winds ranging from 74 to 95 miles (119 to 153 kilometers), while those in the Category 5 range feature wind speeds of more than 156 miles (251 kilometers) an hour. The system is designed to give residents in danger zones a better idea of what to expect from a brewing storm [source: University of Rhode Island].