Dangerous Dennis could cause 'extreme damage'

Dangerous Dennis, carrying 145-mph winds, is on the brink of making hurricane history in what could prove a devastating way, warned forecasters.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | July 10, 2005


Dangerous Dennis, carrying 145-mph winds, is on the brink of making hurricane history in what could prove a devastating way, warned forecasters. The Category 4 storm kept strengthening as it approached the Gulf Coast on Sunday morning, and the storm will ultimately affect millions of people as it moves inland.

Projected to make landfall between Mobile, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla., Dennis will be the first Category 4 storm on record to strike the Florida Panhandle or Alabama.

For many, Dennis has become equivalent to a dreaded monster storm, and 1.4 million people have fled. By Sunday morning, 45-mph winds were blanketing the coastline. The storm was speeding up and could make landfall as early as Sunday afternoon.

In a Florida state emergency management briefing early Sunday, meteorologists described the characteristics of the storm in an attempt to help responders begin to understand its potential impact.

Like last yearís Hurricane Charley, Dennis is considered a very compact storm, meaning hurricane-force winds extend only 30 miles from the eye. Category 4-force winds extend only seven miles from the eye. But a very large area across multiple states will feel tropical storm-force winds. By Sunday morning, the Florida Keys were still feeling the effects and so was Cuba.

The compact wind field means the storm surge will be worse - perhaps as high as 10 feet. Thirty-foot waves were being reported in the Gulf by Sunday morning.

Tropical storm-force winds will exit the state about midnight on Sunday.

The vulnerable region is still recovering from last yearís hurricane season. Long-term recovery groups have vowed to continue their work, with a priority on repairing roof damage and on meeting the emergency needs of the storm survivors.

After weakening to a Category 1 storm over Cuba, Dennis strengthened in the Gulf on Saturday and became a Category 4 storm again early Sunday. The storm is blamed for at least 20 deaths in Haiti and Cuba.

How much worse is a Category 4 storm than a Category 3? Itís exponentially worse, said Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. "Damage increases exponentially as the wind speed increases. And no matter where it makes actual landfall, it's going to have a tremendous impact well away from the center."


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