Today-Tuesday: Be mindful of the afternoon heat.
It seems odd to be warning you all about heat in the first week of October, but that’s where we are at. These above-normal temperatures will continue for the next several days. The only relief that we can hope for would be with one of those isolated afternoon/evening storms.
The rain chances increase a bit for Sunday, as a disturbance passes by. It’s still nothing to cancel plans over, but we should see a bit of an increase in coverage of showers and storms for that day.
We’re still watching an area of disturbed weather in the Caribbean that will be moving into the Gulf in a few days. The system looks to head more toward the Louisiana coast, but it’s too far out to know anything for sure. I’ll keep an eye on it!
Today is the anniversary of the remnants of Hurricane Opal passing over the plateau in 1995. The storm made landfall on the northern Gulf Coast, near Destin, before racing northward. The storm dropped nearly eight inches of rain on Crossville and produced winds that were gusty enough to down some trees. Schools were cancelled, mainly for flooded roads.
The storm did an incredible amount of damage to the Smokies. The high winds and heavy rains brought drown trees and led to mudslides. It would be months before some roads/trails would reopen.
Opal was an odd storm and a very scary storm. When residents went to bed along the Gulf Coast, they knew there was a hurricane in the Gulf, but it was only a cat 1, borderline cat 2. They awoke the next morning to a combination of factors that would make this a worst case scenario. The storm had rapidly intensified (almost cat 5!) and it had nearly doubled it’s forward speed. Some folks even woke up to reverse 911 calls instructing them to evacuate immediately. If I’m not mistaken,this was the first time reverse 911 calls were used? What a horrific morning!
Everyone tried to get out. The roads became congested and bumper to bumper traffic ensued. They were stuck on the road and a hurricane that was just a few miles per hour below cat 5 status was quickly moving their way. What a nightmare. Keep in mind that this was when major landfalling hurricanes were rare for the U.S.
Then, as quickly as the storm had exploded, it began to weaken. The storm made landfall as a low-end cat 3. The damage was incredible at the coast but it could have been so much worse. I was in Destin the next summer and the damage was still evident. Some businesses along the coast still hadn’t reopened.
We are always nervous about these scenarios; a sudden increase in forward speed and intensification just before landfall. What’s even more concerning is that Opal was never supposed to intensify beyond cat 2. Later studies would show that she moved over an exceptionally warm area of water in the Gulf. We’ve since learned much more about these eddies. In the end, Opal showed mercy, but we have to wonder if the next one will as well.
This storm was interesting for us here on the plateau, too. As fast as Opal was moving, if she had made landfall as a cat 5 we would have had a lot of wind damage. Any storm that makes a b-line for us from Destin is something to watch. Winds increase dramatically with height in these storms (as they do with tornadoes). Being up on the plateau would have placed us in higher winds. The Smokies learned this the hard way with Opal, as some of the higher peaks had winds to gust over 80 mph. This is the closest (as far as I know) that we’ve come to having a tropical storm here in Crossville. Tropical storm warnings were issued as far north as Chattanooga!
The map below show’s Opal’s path. Notice the light green (indicating tropical storm status) made it all the way into Tennessee! She remained a hurricane all the way to Birmingham, Alabama. What a storm!
If you’re headed up to Allardt for the pumpkin festival tomorrow wear cool clothes. The weather looks to cooperate but it will be a very warm day.
Keep my family close to your hearts today, as granny isn’t doing well at all. Also keep my dad in your thoughts and prayers, as we take him for test after test to try to find out why he is so severely dizzy. We are likely headed to Vanderbilt with him to get some answers soon. We have to get all these initial tests done before a referral can be made. What a system we’re dealing with, folks.
You all have a great day and a nice weekend.