Hurricane Dennis heads for Gulf Coast, leaves trail of destruction in its wake

Saturday, July 9, 2005

Hurricane Dennis on June 10 at 17:45 UTC. Source: NOAA.

Residents along the US Gulf Coast evacuated or hunkered down Saturday as Hurricane Dennis lashed the Florida Keys with wind and sheets of rain and churned along a path toward areas still rebuilding from last year's storms.

More than 1.4 million people from the Florida Panhandle to Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi are under evacuation orders. Landfall was expected Sunday afternoon anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to southeast Louisiana.

At 6am CDT July 10, the center of Hurricane Dennis was located near latitude 28.2 north, longitude 86.2 west.

Dennis is moving north-northwest at about 15 mph.

As of 6am CDT July 10, according to the National Weather Service, maximum sustained winds are near 145 mph, making Dennis a category four hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. The National Weather Service is calling this an extremely dangerous storm.

Hurricane force winds extend outward 125-140 miles from the center. Rainfall totals of 12 inches are expected along the United States Gulf Coast, meaning flash flooding will be a concern in many areas. Storm surges in excess of 12-14 feet are expected along the Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle west through Louisiana. Isolated tornadoes are possible throughout Florida tonight and tomorrow.

Dennis churned into Cuba packing winds in excess of 145 mph, leaving homes destroyed, and leading to reliance on ham radio as a means of communication. According to CNN, Dennis caused at least 10 deaths throughout Cuba. The Cuban Meteorological Service reported destruction to 85% of its communication infrastructure.

Forecast path for Hurricane Dennis. Source: CIMSS.

Flooding led to widespread problems in Haiti, where the storm claimed 22 lives according to CNN. Mudslides, triggered by the large volume of rain blocked roads and sent 3,000 people to seek shelter in designated storm shelters in Jamaica.

When the storm moved across Cuba, oil companies began shutting down rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and residents in coastal areas of the United States started boarding up windows and preparing for the worst. The storm is expected to make landfall in the United States sometime Sunday evening, following a similar path as Hurricane Ivan last year. Current paths indicate the Florida Keys will be brushed by on the way to the Florida panhandle, coming ashore near Pensacola, FL.

Its current location is {{Map|lat=27.2|lat2=N|long=85.8|long2=W], about 210 miles south of Panama City, Florida, and about 290 miles southeast of Biloxi, Mississippi.

The storm is creating seas in the 12-foot range, with highest seas reported at 30 feet according the National Weather Service. Residents in the Florida panhandle, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana are all under a hurricane warning as current predictions show the storm's progression to effect those states.