Alabama Hurricane Awareness Week

...Hurricane History in Alabama... 



History teaches us that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you

can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.


The goal of hurricane preparedness week is to provide education about the hazards associated with a hurricane which will prepare you to take action as a hurricane approaches. This information may save

your work, home, on the road, or on the water. Each day of Hurricane Preparedness Week features a unique topic relevant to education and awareness. Hurricane season officially runs from June 1st until November 30th for the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.


Today we will focus on hurricane history. Although central Alabama is not adjacent to any large water body...we are close enough that hurricanes and tropical storms can have a devastating impact across

the area.


Here are a few hurricanes that have had a significant impact on central Alabama:


Hurricane Rita 2005...Rita formed as a tropical depression late on September 17th and tracked west northwestward across the central Gulf of Mexico. Rita reached a maximum intensity around 180 mph (Category 5) on September 22nd and then weakened before landfall. On September 24th...Rita made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane near the Texas/Louisiana border. The remnants of Rita continued

northward across eastern Texas...central Arkansas...southeastern Missouri...and southern Illinois before completely dissipating after merging with a frontal system. A feeder band associated with

Rita produced the second largest single day tornado outbreak in central Alabama history on September 25th. Twenty one distinct Tornado damage paths were surveyed in Tuscaloosa, Pickens, Greene,

Winston, Sumter, Lamar, Fayette, and Marion counties. Tornado damage was estimated at a few million dollars across central Alabama. These tornadoes were produced some 350-400 miles east of the central



Hurricane Katrina 2005...Katrina formed as a tropical depression on August 23rd and moved westward across far southern Florida. Katrina reached a maximum intensity of 175 mph (category 5) on August 28th in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Katrina turned northward and produced devastating damage to New Orleans and the Mississippi coast as a Category 3 hurricane. The remnants of Katrina continued northward into the Tennessee and Ohio valleys before dissipating into a frontal zone near the Great Lakes on August 31st. Due to Katrina`s close proximity to the Alabama/Mississippi state line...central

Alabama received widespread wind damage from this large hurricane. Maximum wind gusts were estimated between 45 and 85 mph across central Alabama. Numerous trees and power lines were downed area wide, minor to major structural damaged occurred and power outages were widespread. Many locations were without power for more than a week. Rainfall was generally limited to areas west of Interstate 65 with a maximum of 4-5 inches which occurred near the Alabama/Mississippi state line. Feeder bands associated with Katrina produced four tornadoes in Macon, Tallapoosa, Bullock, Montgomery and Calhoun counties.


Hurricane Dennis 2005...Dennis formed as a tropical depression on July 4th in the Caribbean. Dennis tracked northwestward and reached Category 4 strength around 150 mph just south of Cuba. Dennis made

landfall near Navarre Beach in the Florida panhandle as a Category 3 storm on July 10th. The remnants of Dennis continued northward and eventually dissipated on July 18th in southeastern Canada as it was

absorbed into an extra-tropical low. Dennis`s local effects were widespread across central Alabama. Three to six inch rainfalls occurred west of Interstate 65...with two to three inches east of

the interstate. Many counties reported flash flooding due to the intensity of rain and minor river flooding occurred. Wind gusts associated with Dennis produced damage in all 39 central Alabama

counties. Maximum wind gusts were estimated between 70 and 80 mph near the path of Dennis...mainly in the southwest sections of the area. The remainder of the area received isolated wind gusts around

60 mph. Numerous trees and power lines were downed and power outages occurred. Many structures and automobiles were damaged by the fallen trees.


Hurricane Ivan 2004...Ivan formed as a tropical depression on September 2nd well out into the Atlantic Ocean. Ivan became a Category 5 hurricane with maximum winds around 160 mph as it passed near the Dominican Republic on September 9th. Ivan entered the Gulf of Mexico moving northward and made landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama with winds around 120 mph on September 16th. The remnants

of Ivan moved northeast and weakened before merging with a frontal system near the Delmarva Peninsula on September 18th. Ivan produced maximum wind gusts of 50 to 90 mph across central Alabama. Tree and

power line damage was extensive and many locations were without power for an extended period of time. Structure damage was widespread. Ivan produced a large swath of heavy rainfall...generally four to

eight inches with some isolated amounts of more than 10 inches.  Flash flooding occurred in several locations due to the intensity and the amount of rain.


Hurricane Opal 1995...Opal formed as a tropical depression on September 27th near the Yucatan Peninsula. Opal tracked generally northeastward and strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane on

October 4th in the north central Gulf of Mexico. Opal weakened a bit and was a Category 3 when it made landfall near Pensacola, Florida late on October 4th. Opal continued quickly northward and

dissipated in the Ohio valley on October 5th. Opal produced widespread damage across central Alabama as all 39 counties reported damage. Maximum wind gusts were estimated between 50 and 90 mph. Tree and power line damage was extensive. Numerous structures and automobiles were damaged by fallen trees. Power outages were significant and some locations were without power for a few weeks. Areas east of Interstate 65 received 5 to 7 inches or rain.


Hurricane hazards come in many forms across central Alabama including tornadoes, high winds and flooding. This means it is very important for your family and your work place to have a plan that

takes into account all of these hazards.


Hurricane preparedness week continues on Monday. We will focus our attention on storm surge. Even though these hazards do not directly impact central Alabama...many of us travel to coastal destinations during the summer months...which is Hurricane Season. Become educated on these hazards during preparedness week.


For additional historical or preparedness information, you can visit these sites on the World Wide Web:


National Weather Service Birmingham, Alabama


National Weather Service Mobile, Alabama


National Hurricane Center

Additional info from NHC




NOAA Coastal Services Center - historical hurricane tracks is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.