Hurricane Opal 1995


After a summer with very little rain, heavy rains brought flash flooding to Jefferson County, the day prior to Hurricane Opal`s landfall. Storms with very heavy rain developed over central Alabama ahead of a cold front along the Mississippi River. Moist air flowed Into the area as Hurricane Opal developed in the central Gulf of Mexico. Rainfall measured at the Birmingham Airport reached 6.94 Inches for the day, with most of the rain falling during the mid-afternoon between 1 and 5 pm. The greatest flash flooding occurred in communities in the vicinity of the airport, where roads were closed due to high water in many low spots. Water in some places was between four and five feet deep. Birmingham Police reported that 20 roads were closed due to high water at one point during the afternoon. The airport was shutdown in the evening due to water getting into the lower level of the terminal building, forcing a power shutdown for safety reasons. Some businesses in Vestavia, along Patton Creek, had water in them. In Tarrant, a mobile home park was evacuated and several businesses were affected when water got into those buildings.  Sections of Ensley in Birmingham were affected with roads closed.

On october 4th, Hurricane Opal moved ashore in the Florida panhandle, then moved north-northeast across the state of Alabama. The center of the storm entered the state near the Covington/Escambia county line on the florida border. It moved north-northeast, with the center moving just west of the city of Montgomery, near the city of Talladega, and near Fort Payne before exiting the state near the northeast tip. Primary damage came from strong wind which toppled trees and power lines and damaged signs. Mobile homes, structures and automobiles were damaged both by falling trees and by strong wind. Wind speeds varied across the state. Damage was extensive and no county in the state was spared some effect of the storm. Damage Was the greatest in the eastern counties, with damage decreasing from east-to-west across the state. Damage also decreased as you went north in the state. At the worst, 2.6 million people in Alabama were without electricity, some for over a week.

Most of the damage to the Alabama coastal counties was from storm surge. A storm surge of 4 to 7 feet was estimated from Orange Beach to Dauphin Island. Some of the dunes between Orange Beach and Dauphin Island were eroded by the surge of water. Nine short lived tornadoes occurred, mostly near and east of the center of the storm, across 6
Counties.

In all, there were two storm related deaths in Gadsden, Etowah County, when high wind toppled a massive oak tree onto their mobile home. Unfortunately there were several other people killed in the state, but those deaths, such as house fires and asphyxiation, were not directly attributable to the weather.

The short table below indicates the highest reported gust recorded at the locations shown:

Peak wind gusts during Hurricane Opal

City

Wind Direction

Speed of Gust (MPH)

Birmingham

 NE

 48

Huntsville

 N

 55

Anniston

 NE

 35

Tuscaloosa

 NW

 46

Columbus, GA

 SSE

 44

Montgomery/Dannelly Field

 E

 63

Montgomery/Maxwell AFB

 SE

 90

Evergreen

 N/A

 90 (estimated)

Shelby County Airport

 N/A

 49

Ozark

 SSE

 98

Dothan

 SE

 69

 

Heavy rain also caused creeks and streams to swell to bankfull and beyond, however, there were very few reports of water flooding buildings. Water damage occurred to structures in many locations where wind or falling trees damaged roofs. The following table shows rainfall amounts by county.

 

Autauga
     Billingsley 5.00 inches
Bibb
     Centreville Coop 3.92 inches
Blount
     Oneonta 4.35 inches
Bullock
     Union Springs 4.65 inches
Calhoun
     Anniston Airport 5.97 inches
Chilton
     Clanton 6.30 inches
Colbert
     Muscle Shoals 1.79 inches
Coosa
     Rockford 5.12 inches
Cullman
     Hanceville 3.25 inches
Dekalb
     Fort Payne 6.10 inches
     Valley Head 6.02 inches
Dallas
     Selma 6.09 inches
Etowah
     Gadsden Water Plant 4.60 inches
Fayette
     Fayette 1.80 inches
Franklin
     Hodges 1.41 inches
Greene
     Selden L&D 3.65 inches
     Gainesville L&D 2.05 inches
Hale
     Moundville 4.00 inches
Jackson
     Birdgeport 3.96 inches
Jefferson
     Birmingham Airport 3.79 inches
     Pinson 2.92 inches
Lowndes
     R.F. Henry L&D 3.57 inches
Madison
     Huntsville 2.29 inches
Marengo
     Demopolis l&d 2.29 inches
Marion
     Hamilton 1.11 inches
Marshall
     Boaz 5.05 inches
Montogmery
     Montgomery 3.22 inches
Perry
     Marion 1.93 inches
     Uniontown 4.00 inches
Pickens
     Aliceville 1.91 inches
     Reform 1.93 inches
     Bevill L&D 2.20 inches
Pike
     Troy 3.13 inches
Shelby
     Montevallo 2.85 inches
     Oak Mtn SP 4.38 inches
     Helena 4.31 inches
     Indian Springs 3.36 inches
Talladega
     Sylacauga 6.05 inches
Tallapoosa
     Alexander City 3.00 inches
     Dadeville 4.84 inches
     Walnut Hill 6.26 inches
Tuscaloosa
     Tuscaloosa 3.34 inches
     Oliver L&D 2.20 inches
     Holt L&D 2.05 inches
     Bankhead L&D 3.60 inches
Walker
     Carbon Hill 2.75 inches
     Jasper 3.08 inches
     Sumiton 2.70 inches
Wilcox
     Alberta 5.26 inches
     Millers Ferry L&D 5.50 inches

 

Additional Information

Hurricane Opal Technical Report 95-02
Hurricane Opal Preliminary Report
 

 

 

 


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