Hurricane Dennis makes landfall on Gulf Coast near Pensacola

Monday, July 11, 2005

Hurricane Dennis on July 10, 2005 at 3:15 p.m. EDT. Source: NHC.

Hurricane Dennis regained strength during its north-westerly crossing of the Gulf of Mexico to surge into Florida's western panhandle near Mobile, Alabama with Category 3 force that packed sustained winds of 120 mph.

Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Escambia were the first Florida counties hit by the eyewall of the hurricane at 3:25 EDT Sunday afternoon. The small storm eye of the powerful hurricane spared the region more major destruction.

The compact storm picked up travel speed from 14 to 18 mph as it came to within 3 hours of landfall, where the storm's eye made for the Pensacola Bay. Its strength suddenly dropped from Category 4 before it struck land and moved swiftly inland. It continued to gain speed, traveling at 21 mph, while its strength sapped to Category 2 on a track into the Ohio Valley.

Residents of Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola who remained in the region, were told hours before the storm's arrival that storm shelters were full, and they were urged to stay home or find other shelter. In Escambia County Florida, officials announced at 2pm they were no longer able to respond to 911 calls for help due to the high winds.

The storm came 10 months after Hurricane Ivan, which struck the panhandle and Mobile Bay region last year. Dennis landed just 50 miles east of Ivan's, where recovery efforts from that storm were still ongoing. The Dennis landfall matched Ivan's Category 3 wind speeds.

Power outages were reported in Mobile and across the panhandle. Florida governor Jeb Bush promised in a televised press conference that all efforts to restore power would be done as quickly as possible so that, "people can help themselves" recover from the storm. A hospital administrator at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola said it lost power at 2:30pm, and can operate 60 hours using back-up power generators.

Sunday evening, President Bush declared that Florida has major disaster areas, making the state eligible for FEMA assistance.

Forecast path for Dennis. Source: CMISS.

In Alabama, interstate highway I-65 was re-routed for northbound traffic only when an evacuation order was issued on Friday, by Governor Riley, for Mobile and Baldwin counties. Northern parts of the state, up into the southern part of Tennessee, were booked full with those who evacuated. A curfew lifted Sunday at 6pm in the city of Mobile.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast region was victim of the Category 5 storm, Hurricane Camille, in 1969.