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Cars parked along Sand Key in Clearwater, Fla., were flooded as water rose during Opal's journey through the Gulf of Mexico on its way to Florida's Panhandle. To see Hurricane Opal photo gallery click here.
Hurricane Opal, which formed Sept. 27, 1995 near the Yucatan Channel, was on track to become a monstrous Category 5 hurricane, with winds approaching 200 mph as it churned north in the Gulf. Instead, about 10 hours before the storm made landfall near Pensacola Oct. 4, cool air was pulled toward the center, dramatically reducing Opal's impact.
Opal still caused 63 deaths and did an estimated $2-billion in damage from the Panhandle beaches, through Alabama and Georgia and into Tennessee, according to the National Hurricane Center. Its storm surge, as high as 15 feet in some areas, was estimated at about 150 miles, perhaps the widest surge ever.
More homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed by Opal's storm surge than all other coastal storms in Florida since 1975 combined, a state report said.
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