Property Damage Mitigation Lessons from Hurricane Opal: The Florida Panhandle Coast, October 4, 1995

Craig A. Webb, David M. Bush, Robert S. Young

Abstract


Hurricane Opal passed over the Florida panhandle between the cities of Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach on the night of October 4, 1995. The storm weakened in the hours prior to landfall from a strong Category (Cat.) 4 to a Cat. 3 hurricane. On point of impact, Opal's winds were 201 kph (125 mph) and pressure was 940 mb. Maximum storm surges of 4-5 m were reported to be in the Navarre Beach/Pensacola Beach area; however, our field observations lead us to believe that the maximum storm surge values along the coast were closer to 3-4 m. The hurricane's impact was mitigated somewhat by the occurrence of dead low tide at the time of landfall (the local tidal range is approximately 40 cm.


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