Hurricane Opal (1995)
Hurricane Opal was the strongest storm of the incredibly active 1995 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Its winds reached 150 mph and its lowest pressure reading was 916 millibars (or 27.05 inches). As with many hurricanes during the latter months of the season, Opal began as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa on September 11th. It reached the Caribbean Sea on the 23rd, where it merged with a low pressure system.
Five days later, it became a tropical depression (and later a tropical storm) near Cozumel, Mexico. After drifting for a few days, it began to weaken, but then intensified. It became a hurricane on October 2nd. It continued to intensify over the next 48 hours, becoming a category four storm on the 4th.
By this time, it had started tracking northeast, towards the Gulf coast. As it approached the Florida coast, it intensified even more. With a drop in pressure of 32 millibars in less than eight hours, winds neared category five strength.
Shortly before landfall, the eye began to collapse, leading the pressure to rise and winds to decrease to 125 mph. While now just an average category three storm, it became the second storm to hit Pensacola this year, after nearly 70 years of inactivity!
Hurricane Opal brought with it a 15 foot storm surge, as well as tropical storm force winds as far north as northern Alabama and Georgia! Thirteen people died in the United States as a result of the storm. Property damage was estimated to be a little over three and a half billion dollars.
The Weather Channel covering the storm
|Mark Mancusco with the storm in the gulf, near Mexico|
|Mike Siedel with the storm in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico|
|Jim Cantore, as the storm moves towards Alabama and Florida|
|Dennis Smith, shortly before the storm makes landfall|