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Fri Nov 22, 2013, 11:43 AM

28 years ago - North Florida's "Thanksgiving" hurricane

I was thinking about this last week with the unusual tornado activity in the MidWest:

28 years ago on Nov. 21, Hurricane Kate hit North Florida, a few days before Thanksgiving. Many people in this area had no Thanksgiving that year. We had no power or water for a week. One friend had no power for a month.

Kate was the first hurricane along the Florida Panhandle since Hurricane Eloise in 1975.[7] In the region, the hurricane dropped heavy rainfall along its path, peaking at 8.32 in (211 mm) in Panama City.[25] While Kate moved ashore, it produced an 11 m (36 ft) storm surge at Cape San Blas,[6] causing beach and dune erosion in Gulf County. Storm surge flooding left 150 houses uninhabitable in Wakulla County.[27] Just two months after Hurricane Elena caused significant damage to the oyster industry, Hurricane Kate destroyed much of what little was left in Apalachicola Bay. Lack of production caused many oystermen to lose their jobs in the area.[28]

Strong winds were reported across the Florida Panhandle and there was one reported tornado, along with several funnel clouds.[7] In Panama City, wind gusts reached 78 mph (126 km/h), which damaged two houses, a motel, and a fishing pier. Sustained winds reached 74 mph (119 km/h) at Cape San Blas, with gusts to 108 mph (174 km/h).[27] Across the area, Kate severely damaged 242 buildings, mostly in Franklin County; in the county, the damage was the heaviest of any other storm in the late 1900s. The storm damaged about 5.4 mi (8.7 km) of roads in the county,[27] and throughout the region many roads were washed out. High winds downed trees across the Florida Panhandle, which damaged several houses. One downed tree struck a car, killing one person and injuring another. The winds also downed power poles and lines.[26]

Many fishermen before and after the storm were suffering due to lack of fish. In addition, severely eroded coastlines lost even more beach from a 10 foot (3 m) storm surge and strong waves.[29]
Rainfall map of Kate in the United States

Along the coastline, there was extensive road damage, with potholes up to 4 feet (1.2 m) in length along U.S. Route 98. [2] Kate's strong winds and rain damaged at least 600 houses and water craft, amounting to $300 million (1985 USD) in damage.

Flooding and power outages across 90% of the city forced a curfew, taking up to two weeks to clean up. A positive aspect of the storm was the economic boost from coastal evacuees. Restaurants, hotels, and stores were full from those taking refuge from the storm.

The National Weather Service has a series of photos of the damage - I never saw any of the video or pictures - we didn't get TV or paper by the time the local media did their specials on the storm's aftermath.

While global warming might be contributing to unusual weather events, it is not new. Hurricane Kate was unusual in hitting the mainland so late in the season and in doing so much damage. But 28 years ago climate change and global warming were not as big a concern as they are now and few brought them up as a cause for this unusual storm - though they could have affected it as much as they could have affected the tornado outbreak last week.

Just musing here....

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