Today in Weather History: Hurricane Opal wreaks havoc on the Southeast

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - On the evening of October 4, 1995, Category 3 Opal made landfall along the Florida panhandle. Over the next two days, the storm brought driving rain, strong winds and a deadly storm surge along the coast.

Opal's effects were felt from Florida to the Carolinas and then all the way north through the Ohio Valley.

Ahead of the storm, about 100,000 people were evacuated near the coast.

When the storm first came ashore, its winds were 125 mph and with the storm came a 15-20 foot storm surge which would have been even worse had the storm not made landfall at low tide. Another fortunate turn of circumstances was the significant weakening prior to landfall. At one point the storm reached Category 4 classification with winds of 150 mph, but Opal ran into cooler ocean temperatures just off the coast, causing the storm to weaken.

The storm did weaken as it moved over land, but hurricane force winds impacted Florida, Alabama and Georgia and the storm maintained tropical storm strength as it moved over North Carolina and Tennessee.

Gusts of 58 mph were reported in Asheville, and Charlotte saw wind gusts of 36 mph from Opal. In the Carolinas, the extensive rain caused more problems than the wind. In Boone, nearly 9 inches of rain fell from the system. Morganton received over 7 inches of rain. In South Carolina, rain gauges in Chester and Cheraw totaled over 4 inches of rain from the storm, and 3.64 inches of rain fell in the Queen City.

The direct and indirect death toll from the storm was 27, with two deaths reported in North Carolina. Opal caused extensive damage and was the 4th costliest hurricane to make landfall in the United States from 1900-1996.

In addition to the threat from the storm surge and hurricane wind damage, Opal produced an unusually high number of tornadoes. The storm was responsible for generating 22 twisters, more than twice the average number of a landfalling hurricane.