National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Hurricane Opal 1995


After a summer with very little rain, heavy rains brought flash flooding to Jefferson County, the day prior to Hurricane Opal`s landfall. Storms with very heavy rain developed over Central Alabama ahead of a cold front along the Mississippi River.  Moist air flowed into the area as Hurricane Opal developed in the central portion of the Gulf of Mexico.  Rainfall measured at the Birmingham Airport reached 6.94 Inches for the day, with most of the rain falling during the mid-afternoon between 1 and 5 PM.  The greatest flash flooding occurred in communities in the vicinity of the airport, where roads were closed due to high water in many low spots.  Water in some places was between four and five feet deep.  Birmingham police reported that 20 roads were closed due to high water at one point during the afternoon.  The airport was shutdown in the evening due to water getting into the lower level of the terminal building, forcing a power shutdown for safety reasons.  Some businesses in Vestavia Hills, along Patton Creek, had water in them. In Tarrant, a mobile home park was evacuated and several businesses were affected when water got into those buildings.  Sections of Ensley in Birmingham were affected, with roads closed.

On October 4th, Hurricane Opal moved ashore in the Florida Panhandle, then moved north-northeast across the state of Alabama.  The center of the storm entered the state near the Covington/Escambia county line on the Florida border.  It moved north-northeast, with the center moving just west of the city of Montgomery, near the city of Talladega, and near Fort Payne before exiting the state near the northeast tip.  Primary damage came from strong winds, which toppled trees, power lines, and damaged signs. Mobile homes, structures, and automobiles were damaged both by falling trees and by strong winds.  Wind speeds varied across the state.  Damage was extensive, and no county in the state was spared some effect of the storm.  Damage was the greatest in the eastern counties, with damage decreasing from east-to-west across the state.  Damage also decreased as you went north across the state.  2.6 million people in Alabama were without electricity, some for over a week.

Most of the damage to the Alabama coastal counties was from storm surge.  A storm surge of 4 to 7 feet was estimated from Orange Beach to Dauphin Island.  Some of the dunes between Orange Beach and Dauphin Island were eroded by the surge of water.  Nine short lived tornadoes occurred, mostly near and east of the center of the storm, across 6 counties.

In all, there were two storm related deaths in Gadsden, in Etowah County, when high wind toppled a massive oak tree onto their mobile home.  Unfortunately, there were several other people killed in the state, but those deaths, such as house fires and asphyxiation, were not directly attributable to the weather.

The short table below indicates the highest reported gust recorded at the locations shown:


Peak Wind Gusts during Hurricane Opal

Town/Station Wind Direction Speed of Gust in MPH
Anniston Northeast 35
Birmingham Northeast 48

Calera (Shelby County Airport)

N/A 49
Columbus, GA South-Southeast 44
Dothan Southeast 69
Evergreen N/A 90 (estimated)
Huntsville North 55
Montgomery/Dannelly Field East 63
Montgomery/Maxwell AFB Southeast 90
Ozark South-Southeast 98
Tuscaloosa Northwest 46


Heavy rain also caused creeks and streams to swell to bankfull and beyond.  However, there were very few reports of water flooding buildings.  Water damage occurred to structures in many locations where wind or falling trees damaged roofs.  The following table shows rainfall amounts by county.

Rainfall Amounts by County

County Town/Station Rainfall in Inches
Autauga Billingsley


Bibb Centreville Coop 3.92
Blount Oneonta 4.35
Bullock Union Springs 4.65
Calhoun Anniston Airport 5.97
Chilton Clanton


Colbert Muscle Shoals 1.79
Coosa Rockford 5.12
Cullman Hanceville 3.25
Dekalb Fort Payne 6.10
Dekalb Valley Head 6.02
Dallas Selma 6.09
Etowah Gadsden Water Plant 4.60
Fayette Fayette 1.80
Franklin Hodges 1.41
Greene Gainsville Lock and Dam 2.05
Greene Seldon Lock and Dam 3.65
Hale Moundville 4.00
Jackson Bridgeport 3.96
Jefferson Birmingham Airport 3.79
Jefferson Pinson 2.92
Lowndes R. F. Henry Lock and Dam 3.57
Madison Huntsville 2.29
Marengo Demopolis Lock and Dam 2.29
Marion Hamilton 1.11
Marshall Boaz 5.05
Montgomery Montgomery 3.22
Perry Marion 1.93
Perry Uniontown 4.00
Pickens Aliceville 1.91
Pickens Bevill Lock and Dam 2.20
Pickens Reform 1.93
Pike Troy 3.13
Shelby Helena 4.31
Shelby Indian Springs 3.36
Shelby Montevallo 2.85
Shelby Oak Mountain State Park 4.38
Talladega Sylacauga 6.05
Tallapoosa Alexander City 3.00
Tallapoosa Dadeville 4.84
Tallapoosa Walnut Hill 6.26
Tuscaloosa Bankhead Lock and Dam 3.60
Tuscaloosa Holt Lock and Dam 2.05
Tuscaloosa Oliver Lock and Dam 2.20
Tuscaloosa Tuscaloosa 3.34
Walker Carbon Hill 2.75
Walker Jasper 3.08
Walker Sumiton 2.70
Wilcox Alberta 5.26
Wilcox Millers Ferry Lock and Dam 5.50