Alabama and the historic hurricanes that have swept across its coast

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama is no stranger to hurricanes. We may not have taken a direct hit by one in over a decade, but it’s important to have a plan every hurricane season. 

In most recent years, it’s easy to recall the damage of hurricane Michael in or maybe the you’ll never forget Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but do you remember names like Camille, Ivan, Opal, or Frederic?

In 1979, Mobile was slammed with a Category 4 storm. It left a path of destruction along with a life time of memories for many Alabama residents, like Denny Baynham, who was just a young boy at the time.

“As soon as mam left for work that morning, they pretty much already had thing in plan…I’m not sure mama really had experience dealing with hurricanes,” Baynham said. “This was actually my first one.”

Jerry Smith of Andalusia remembers it well.

“It was surreal i guess is the best way I can describe it, I could not even describe the devastation in town. It’s just forever etched in my mind the devastation, but also the kindness.”

You may recall Opal left a path of destruction well inland. One interesting thing to point out about Opal is its rapid intensification, going from a Category 2 to 4 storm overnight. This required urgent evacuations that jammed I-65 and ultimately resulted in over $2 billion dollars of damage across the state. 

Then there is Hurricane Ivan that literally reshaped the Alabama coast. Jon Raney remembers seeing it firsthand as he flew across the coastline.

“Debris everywhere, boats in the middle of fields, houses completely destroyed, blue tarps pretty much everywhere,” Raney said. “The blue tarps were there a good couple of years later.”

The very next year was Hurricane Katrina, which had a huge coastal impact, but didn’t do as much as it moved inland, unlike Hurricane Rita that same year, which spawned 21 tornadoes in west and northeast Alabama. 

August marks 15 years since Katrina, and this season marks two years since Michael. It’s important that we don’t grow complacent in Alabama about these storms. Any season, active or quiet, could produce that next big hurricane for the state. It’s important to always stay prepared, informed, and ready to take action. 


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