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Hurricane Opal

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Hurricane Opal was the fifteenth named storm, tenth hurricane, and fourth major hurricane of the 1995 Atlantic hurricane season. Opal formed on September 27 just off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Opal moved slowly across the Yucatan Peninsula, emerging into the southern Gulf of Mexico on September 30. Opal moved north-northeast, ultimately attaining Category 4 status with winds of 150 mph. Opal weakened before landfall, however, and it made landfall near Santa Rosa Island, Florida on October 4 as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 115 mph. Opal dissipated on October 6.

Opal killed 69 people; 59 direct, 10 indirect. In addition, it caused $3.9 billion (1995 USD) in damage.

Opal in the Gulf of Mexico on October 3
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FormationSeptember 27, 1995
Dissipation October 6, 1995
Highest winds 150 mph
Lowest pressure 916 mbar
Deaths 59 direct, 10 indirect
Damages $3.9 billion (1995 USD)
Areas affectedGuatemala, Yucatán Peninsula, Alabama, Florida Panhandle, Georgia, most of eastern North America
Part of the 1995 Atlantic hurricane season

Meteorological HistoryEdit

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Wikipedia shouldn't have ppl edit this .....Satellite imagery as well as synoptic analysis indicates that the precursor to Opal was a tropical wave that left the coast of Africa on September 11. The wave moved westward across the Atlantic Ocean and entered the western Carribean Sea on September 23, at which point it merged with a broad area of low pressure centered at 15°N 80°W. The merged system drifted west-northwest towards the Yucatan Peninsula over the next few days with no significant development. Deep convection associated with the low increased near the center, and at 1800 UTC September 27, it is estimated that the low developed into Tropical Depression Seventeen while located 70 miles south-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico. The depression was embedded within weak steering currents after forming, and it moved slowly across the Yucatan Peninsula for the following three days as a result. Ship reports, along with increased banding features, prompted the National Hurricane Center to upgrade the depression to Tropical Storm Opal at 1200 UTC September 30 while located near the north-central coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

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Tropical Storm Opal emerging into the Gulf of Mexico.

Opal gradually strengthened as it moved slowly westward into the Bay of Campeche. A reconnaissance aicraft flew into Opal when it was over the southwestern Gulf of Mexico and reported that the pressure had steadily dropped. Reports from reconnaissance aircraft as well as satellite estimates indicate that Opal attained hurricane status near 1200 UTC October 2 while located 150 miles west of Merida, Mexico. Later that day, a banding-type eye appeared in satellite imagery, and at this time, a large amplitude mid- to upper-level trough moving into the central United States began to turn Opal slowly to the north. Opal moved north-northeast on October 3 and 4, gradually accelerating during this time. During this period, sea surface temperatures beneath the cyclone were 28 to 29°C, and a large upper-level anticyclone was located over the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the favorable atmospheric and oceanic conditions, Opal underwent a period of rapid intensification. Also, significant changes on a smaller scale within Opal's inner core could've helped to rapidly intensify the hurricane. Early on October 4, Opal attained Category 4 status, at which time reconnaissance aircraft reported a small, 10 mile wide eye. Near 1000 UTC October 4, Opal reached its peak intensity of 150 mph with a very low pressure of 916 mb. During this time, Opal was located about 250 miles south-southwest of Pensacola, Florida.

Opal's peak intensity appears to have occured near the end of an eyewall replacement cycle. Shortly thereafter, the small inner eyewall diminished as an outer eyewall became more dominant. Opal weakened during this time, but it was still a Category 3 hurricane when it made landfall at Pensacola Beach, Florida near 2200 UTC October 4. Opal's weakening was likely caused by the collapse of the inner eyewall, lower sea surface temperatures along the coast, as well as increased upper-level westerly wind shear. At landfall, Opal was moving north-northeast at a swift foward speed of near 20 knots. Sustained hurricane force winds occured in the eastern semicircle of the cyclone, mainly between Pensacola Beach and Cape San Blas. At landfall, Opal's pressure was estimated to be at 942 mb, and its maximum sustained winds 115 mph in a narrow swath of the coast near the extreme eastern tip of the Choctawhatchee Bay about midway between Destin and Panama City. Although no official reports of surface winds are available in the area where the strongest winds occured, data from reconnaissance aircraft as well as doppler radar suggest that Opal's peak winds occured in this location. Opal's strongest winds were confined to a very small area, and most of the Florida Panhandle experienced sustained winds of only Category 1 or Category 2 force. Although Opal's winds were diminishing at the time of landfall, it caused significant damage across most of the Florida Panhandle due to the storm surge as well as breaking waves.

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Hurricane Opal approaching the Florida Panhandle.

After landfall, Opal weakened rapidly, weakening to a tropical storm over southern Alabama and to a tropical depression over southeastern Tennessee. Opal became extratropical as it moved northeastward across the Ohio Valley and eastern Great Lakes into southwestern Quebec. During the extratropical stage, Opal's strongest winds occured well away from the circulation center.

PreparationsEdit

Only four watches and warnings were issued in association with Opal before both its landfalls. The first was a Tropical Storm Warning that was issued on September 30 for the northeastern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula extending from Cancun and Cozumel to Progreso. Late on October 1, this warning was discontinued. The second warning was a Tropical Storm Warning issued on October 3 from Morgan City, Louisiana to just west of Pensacola, Florida. On October 4, the third warning, a Hurricane Warning, was issued from Mobile, Alabama to Anclote Key, Florida. This one warning was extended from Mobile, Alabama westward to the Mouth of the Mississippi River including coastal Mississippi. They were extended yet again for Grand Isle, Louisiana westward to just east of Morgan City, Louisiana including Metropolitan New Orleans. All remaining coastal watches and warnings were discontinued on October 5 at 0500 UTC.

The post-landfall watches and warnings released in accordance with Opal were a Flash Flood Warning released on October 5 for portions of Alabama, northern Georgia, the western parts of North Carolina and South Carolina, and also eastern Tennessee. In addition, a Flash Flood Watch was in effect was also in effect for portions of the Upper Ohio Valley, the mid-Atlantic, the central Appalachians, and finally the lower Great Lakes. Wind warnings were in effect for northwestern South Carolina all the way to western New York. Also, a gale warning was in effect for Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, as well as the southern portions of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Six hours later, the gale warning over Lake Erie was upgraded to a storm warning. The coast of Lake Erie was under a beach erosion warning from Buffalo, New York to Ripley, New York. Also, the Storm Prediction Center issued a Tornado Watch across northern and central New Jersey, as well as portions of New York and Connecticut on October 6.

Significant non-surge areas of Escambia County south of US 98 are currently included in evacuation areas because of the potential for isolation by flooding.

ImpactEdit

Mexico and Central AmericaEdit

Opal caused damage in Mexico and Central America, primarily from flooding. Opal stalled across the coast of Mexico for several days as a tropical depression. Flooding was reported across the countries, killing 31 people in Guatemala and 19 in Mexico. Also, heavy rains from Opal produced flooding in Tabasco, Campeche, portions of Chiapas, Quintana Roo, and Yucatán. CJ


FloridaEdit

In Florida, where Opal made its final landfall (its Mexican landfall being the first), about 200 miles of the state's coast was affected to some degree by Hurricane Opal. Rainfall totals in Florida peaked at 15.45 inches at Ellyson, 7.27 inches at Pensacola, 6.64 inches at Hurlburt Field, and lower amounts of rainfall were reported in over 8 different locations. The highest wind gust reported was a 145 mph wind gust at Hurlburt Field. Some lower wind gusts reported were a 115 mph gust at Eglin Air Force Base, and an 88 mph wind gust as Pensacola P.N.S. The highest sustained winds were 84 mph at Hurlburt Field, and 80 mph at Eglin Air Force Base. Opal produced storm surges of 5 to 6 feet above normal at Apalachicola, and 2 to 4 feet above normal in Sarasota. In addition, Opal produced very high storm surge in other locations, reaching 8 to 15 feet in some areas, comparing itself to Hurricane Eloise, which struck the same area and at a similar strength in 1975. Opal caused about $3,000,000,000 (1995 USD) in damage, making it the third costliest hurricane at the time. Most of the structural damage Opal produced occured near the coastline on the Florida Panhandle, due to storm surge. Nearly a mile of U.S. Highway 98 near Eglin Air Force Base was completely destroyed by Opal. The pavement was nearly replaced by mounds of sand by left behind after the storm surge. Numerous homes were under 3 to 10 feet of water.

Residents were not allowed to return to their homes until they could be secured from looters, although a bus tour was arranged by the county so home owners could see the damage, but were not allowed off of the bus. Also, looters were found crossing the bay on boats and surfboards, and it was feared that some of them were armed. Sand dunes along the stretch of Highway 98, normally 25 feet high, were removed by the wind and storm surge produced by Opal. Where once the ocean was obscured from view by the dunes for miles, a flat open space opened up along U. S. Highway 98.

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Damage from Hurricane Opal.

Rest of the U.S. Gulf CoastEdit

AlabamaEdit

In Alabama, Opal produced a peak rainfall total of 19.42 inches three miles east-northeast of the city of Brewton. Lesser amounts of rainfall include 7.48 inches at Mobile, and 6.1 inches at Anniston. The highest wind gust reported was a 95 mph wind gust at Fort Rucker as well as a gust of 90 mph at Maxwell Air Force Base. The highest sustained winds in Alabama from Opal were 75 mph at Fort Rucker, 55 mph in downtown Mobile, and 47 mph at Maxwell Air Force Base as well as in Montgomery.

Numerous downed trees across much of the Southeastern United States left over 2 million without power. Alabama reported that 476,000 people were without power, which was a record at the time. This record number of power outages was beaten by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Damage was heavy all the way inland to Montgomery where winds reached 90 miles per hour.

MississippiEdit

In Mississippi, Opal produced rainfall totals of 5 inches throughout the eastern portion of the state, with lower amounts at points westward. During the afternoon of October 4, the Gulf Coast of Mississippi experienced tropical storm force winds from Hurricane Opal. Wind damage, however, was mainly limited to downed tree limbs, power lines, as well as signs. Also, one minor injury was reported in Harrison County due to flying debris. Total damage in Mississippi from Opal reached $75,000,000 (1995 USD).

LouisianaEdit

The only significant damage that occured in Louisiana from Opal was in the extreme southern portion of Plaquemines Parish. There, sustained winds were estimated at 60 mph, with gusts to hurricane force, with wind damage reported to mobile homes and the roofs of a few other structures. In extreme southern Lafourche Parish, Jefferson Parish, as well as the extreme eastern portion of St. Bernard Parish, tropical storm force winds were reported in association with Opal. Tides were generally 2 feet above normal in Lake Pontchartrain, and 3 to 5 feet above normal along the southeastern Louisiana coast from Grand Isle eastward. In addition, some low-lying coastal roads were flooded by Opal.

Approximately 10,000 people evacuated from the southern, or lower portions, of Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Lafourche, and Jefferson Parishes. The only significant gathering of persons in public shelters occurred in Plaquemines Parish, where 1,600 people were placed in public shelters.

Although Opal caused no direct injuries in Louisiana, an indirect injury is attributed to the hurricane in a freak accident. A Jefferson Parish employee was injured while attempting to lower a large flag on October 4. The employee, who was holding onto a rope attached to the flag, was tossed high into the air by Opal's winds, and suffered severe injuries as he hit the ground. Total damage in Louisiana from Opal reached $200,000 (1995 USD).

TexasEdit

Breaking waves in Texas from Opal caused water to spill across at the usual washover points, which produced damage to several vehicles.

Southeastern United StatesEdit

GeorgiaEdit

In Georgia, Opal produced 8.66 inches of rain in Marietta, 8.08 in Peachtree City, and 7.17 inches in the western portion of Atlanta. Southern Georgia only received 1 to 3 inches of rain from the cyclone, while the northern portion of the state received 5 to 7 inches of rain from the storm. The peak wind gusts reported in Georgia was 79 mph in Marietta, a 70 mph gust in Columbus, and a 56 mph gust in the Atlanta-Hartsfield area. Strong winds in Rabun County caused $5,000,000 (1995 USD) on October 5. The damage in Georgia was most significant in Rabun County, where numerous trees were downed, with the wind damage being described as the worst since the Superstorm of 1993, with power being out for at least a week for some people. More than 4,000 trees were blown down within the city of Atlanta alone. The trees fell across roads, fell onto power lines, mobile homes, homes, and automobiles. More than half a dozen people were injured from falling trees during the early morning hours of October 5. Also, there were more than 1,200 telephone poles and nearly 5,000 power lines snapped. Power crews from surrounding states helped to restore power to many residents, but thousands of residences remained without electricity through the weekend. An 80 foot gash was torn out of Interstate 285 between Roswell Road and the Glenridge Connector in Atlanta. On October 5 and October 6, schools were closed throughout Atlanta, Marietta, and in Fulton, Coweta, Caroll, and Douglas counties, with a total of 47 out of 101 schools being closed in Deklab County alone. Four state parks were closed after Opal's passage: Moccasin Creek Park, Black Rock Mountain, Vogel State Park, and Fort Mountain State Park. 273 stations reported many falling traffic lights. Agricultural experts estimated that damage to the pecan crop was about $50,000,000 (1995 USD). Several rivers and creeks overflowed their banks.

Beginning on the evening of October 4, numerous power outages were reported in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area, where sustained tropical storm force winds occured overnight (including gusts to near 70 mph), knocking down thousands of trees. 14 deaths occured in Georgia from Opal.

South CarolinaEdit

In extreme northwestern South Carolina, Opal produced 7 inches of rain. The rest of the state reported lesser amounts of rain. Also, heavy rainfall caused road closures and bridge closures, and also caused $24,000,000 (1995 USD) in crop and property damage. A tornado in Chesterfield blew many trees down in the Carolina Sandhill National Wildlife Refuge. Trees were also blown down in Orangeburg, with one of those trees falling onto a car and destroying it. An F0 tornado spawned by the cyclone's outer rainbands downed a number of trees and power lines. Also, campers, vehicles, structures, and boats were damaged in Greenville.

North CarolinaEdit

In North Carolina, Opal produced over 17 inches of rain, which included 9.89 inches in Robinson Creek, and 8.95 inches in Highlands. The Robinson Creek rains produced flash flooding. Officials in the state had residents boil water before drinking it due to the possibility that floodwater may have ntered the purification plants. Also, a landslide produced by Opal damaged the Blue Ridge Parkway. Opal triggered a debris flow in the Poplar Cove area of Macon County. A flash flood from rainfall amounts typically ranged from 4 to 6 inches, and closed roads and bridges were the result of the heavy rains. The most serious flooding apparently occured in Avery County where evacuations were ordered and tanks of propane were found floating in the Banner Elk River.

Opal killed three people in North Carolina. A man in Candler was killed when a falling tree destroyed his mobile home. In addition, another man was killed near Marshall when a tree was blown onto him while he was helping cut other trees out of the roadway. Also, 10 people were injured by flying debris and falling trees. Total damage in North Carolina from Opal reached $15,000,000 (1995 USD).

Mid-AtlanticEdit

VirginiaEdit

In Virginia, Opal blew down trees in the Shenandoah Valley and along the Allegheny Plateau due to 40 mph winds at higher elevations. Over 7,000 people were without electricity and total damage in Virginia amounted to $5,000 (1995 USD). The National Park Service reported dozens of trees blown down along Skyline Drive in two counties.

Great Smokey MountainsEdit

In the Great Smokey Mountains, power and telephone services were out in many areas of the park.

West VirginiaEdit

In West Virginia, 0.5 to 1.5 inches of rain occured from Opal, forcing schools to let out early. Strong winds associated with the remnants of Opal moved through southeastern West Virginia on October 5. Winds ranged from 35 to 45 mph, with gusts to near 55 mph. A large amount of trees, large branches, power lines, as well as shingles were ripped off by Opal's winds. The majority of the damage occured at elevations above 2,000 feet. Total damage from the wind reached about $2,000 (1995 USD). Also, large tree limbs were blown down in Preston County, with damage there reaching about $1,000 (1995 USD). Total damage in West Virginia from Opal only reached $5,000 (1995 USD).

MarylandEdit

In Maryland, a large tree along with its limbs on Interstate 495 near the city of Bittinger were downed by strong winds associated with Opal's remnants. Total damage from the fallen tree as well as its limbs totaled to $1,000 (1995 USD). As Opal weakened over land in Maryland, it spawned three tornadoes in Charles, Prince Georges, and Anne Arundel Counties. The first tornado touched down along State Route 425 between the towns of Ironside and Grayton. The tornado uprooted or snapped several trees, destroyed two sheds, and caused roof damage to two other sheds. Also, windows were blown out of a barn and several vehicles by the tornado. The tornado caused a total of $10,000 (1995 USD) in damage. The second tornado, which was the strongest tornado in the state, touched down near Temple Hills, injuring 3 people after reaching peak winds of 150 mph. 100 homes were damaged by the tornado, with 15 of them being condemned. The Potomac Electric Power reported that 9,000 people lost electricity in the area because of Opal. Total damage from the second tornado reached $5,000,000 (1995 USD). The third and final tornado spawned by Opal's remnants in Maryland touched down in Odenton. The tornado ultimately became an F1 tornado, and it caused about $250,000 (1995 USD) in damage to the area. 11 homes were damaged and about 10,000 residents were without electricity in a district that the Baltimore Gas and Electric serves.

Central and Midwestern United StatesEdit

TennesseeEdit

In Tennessee, Opal produced 3 to 5 inches of rain in the central portion of the state, 1 inch of rain in the western portion of the state, and 3 to 5 inches in the eastern portion of the state. Wind gusts at the higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains reached 70 mph, with gusts of 40 to 50 mph common at the lower elevations. Trees and power lines were blown down across much of the region. Over 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail were closed due to trees being blown down by Opal. A total of 20,000 residents lost electricity because of Hurricane Opal. The most significant damage from Opal occured in Hamilton County, with damage being estimated at over $1,000,000 (1995 USD). The damage in Hamilton County includes a circus that was left stranded at a campground and needed to be evacuation. In addition, a number of homes and businesses were surrounded by water and the occupants were evacuated from the aforementioned homes and businesses. Total damage in Tennessee from Opal reached $2.2 million (1995 USD).

KentuckyEdit

In Kentucky, Opal produced 1 to 5 inches of rain throughout the state. Several trees were knocked down and soils were saturated after Opal passed through the state. Also, a bridge washed out over the Sulphur Creek and minor flooding was reported across Kentucky Route 80. Elizabethtown and the Fort Knox area had several roads closed after Opal washed them out.

MichiganEdit

In Michigan, Opal produced 2 to 3 inches of rain over the Middle Rouge River basin from late afternoon through the evening on October 5. As a result, the Middle Rouge River crested one foot over flood stage, causing the Edward Hines Drive to be closed off to traffic. Also, strong winds associated with the remnants of Opal affected the state during the late afternoon and early evening hours of October 5. Strong northeasterly winds destroyed a new 200 foot two story pole barn on the Marine City Highway located in Marine City. Also, Opal's remnants knocked out power to several areas, which resulted in some school closures. The highest wind gust at the Detroit Metro Airport was a 38 mph wind gust, which came from the northeast. Total damage in Michigan from Opal reached $15,000 (1995 USD).

OhioEdit

Opal's remnants moved across northeastern Ohio, producing wind gusts of up to 45 mph, with sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph across northern Ohio. Several automobiles were damaged by falling trees or tree limbs. Also, some crops were damaged by Opal's strong winds. Numerous farms reported fields of corn blown over and ripe apples and other fruits being stripped from trees. At Mansfield, rainfall amounts of 3 to 4 inches were reported in less than 24 hours. During the same period, most locations averaged around 1.5 to 2.5 inches of rain. Flooding was localized and minimal since extremely dry conditions preceded the storm. Sustained northeast winds ahead of the storm reached 55 mph all across the lake, with gusts as high as 70 mph occuring. This produced waves in excess of 10 to 14 feet. Minor to moderate beach erosion occured in many areas, especially the western end of the lake. Also, localized flooding occured in communities with low-lying areas along the lake. Boats were also grounded by the storm. Total damage in Ohio from Opal reached $205,000 (1995 USD).

Northeastern United StatesEdit

New JerseyEdit

In New Jersey, Opal produced thunderstorms with heavy rain, averaging around 3 to 5 inches countywide, which caused flooding of small streams as well as roadways including United States Route 46. The heavy rain was represented as the first significant dent in the drought that had affected northern New Jersey since September 1994. Rainfall totals included 6.7 inches at Waywayanda, 5.3 in Hackettstown, 4.5 inches in Oak Ridge, 4.2 inches in Clinton, and finally, 4.10 inches in Pequannock. Opal's remnants caused severe thunderstorms, which uprooted trees near Belvidere. Also, trees and power lines were down in scattered parts of the county including Route 57 near the Tri-county Firehouse. Downed power lines caused power outages in Hackettstown and Mansfield Township.

PennsylvaniaEdit

Opal's remnants passed through northwest Pennsylvania on October 5 and October 6, causing sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph, with gusts as high as 50 mph. In addition to the strong winds, Opal's remnants produced light rainfall, averaging around 1.5 to 2.5 inches. Flooding was localized and not significant because drought conditions preceded the storm. The prolonged period of strong winds knocked down trees, tree limbs, as well as power lines. At least one automobile was damaged from a fallen tree in Erie. Also, several farms reported fields of corn blown down as well as apples and other fruit being stripped from trees. Total crop damage in the state, however, is unknown.

New YorkEdit

Opal's remnants passed just west of Buffalo, New York on October 5 and 6. 2 to 3 inches of rain fall across much of the area, with isolated amounts to nearly 4 inches occuring over parts of the Western Southern Tier. Sustained winds were estimated between 35 and 40 mph, and the easterly winds knocked down some trees and power lines. In Oneida County, the strong winds downed trees and power lines in New York Mills, Waterville, Sylvan Beach, North Bay, Lee Center, Rome, McConnellsville and Verona. In Saratoga County, a large tree limb was downed in Saratoga Springs, which caused damage to four cars. Total damage in New York reached $35,000 (1995 USD).

VermontEdit

Opal's remnants moved across western and northern New York and passed into Vermont late on October 5 and the morning of October 6. Damaging winds occured across parts of central and northern Vermont, especially along the western slopes of the Green Mountains. The strong winds downed trees and power lines across Essex, Orleans, Addison, Caledonia and Rutland Counties. In Essex County damage occurred in Canaan and Concord. Damage was also reported in Caledonia County, in Rutland County, in Clarendon and Chittenden and in Orleans County in Derby Center. Total damage in Vermont from Opal reached $135,000 (1995 USD).

New HampshireEdit

Rain and wind associated with Opal's remnants knocked down trees and knocked out electricity in the southwestern and northern portion of New Hampshire. One person was injured in Marlborough when a large tree fell onto his moving pickup truck.

MaineEdit

In Maine, rain and wind from Opal's remnants knocked down trees and knocked out electricity in the coastal areas of southern Maine. Also, some beach erosion was reported in Saco. Strong winds ripped away boats from their moorings in the Midcoast towns of Camden and Rockland.

CanadaEdit

In Canada, wind and gale warnings were issued for southern Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River by the [[[Canadian Hurricane Centre]] on October 5. Opal's remnants also prompted a heavy rainfall warning for the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The anticipated rains would not be as significant as they were with Hurricane Hazel in 1954. Also, a gale warning was issued for southern Nova Scotia because of Opal's remnants. Rainfall stretched out to Nova Scotia, but only 0.5 inches of rain was reported in the country. Toronto reported winds of at least 52 mph, and rainfall of about 3.09 inches.

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Rainfall totals from Hurricane Opal.

RetirementEdit

Because of the damage and loss of life, the name Opal was retired in the Spring of 1996 by the World Meteorological Organization. It was replaced with Olga for the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season. Olga was used during the 2001 season, and also used during the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season.

See AlsoEdit

1995 Atlantic hurricane season

ReferencesEdit

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/1995opal.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Opal

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