By Richard G. Henning (Elgin AFB)
This was the strongest late-season hurricane
to ever threaten the U.S., as it did not form until late November. After
forming in the tropical Atlantic, Kate moved through the Bahamas, and
prompted hurricane warnings for the Miami area for the first time in 19
years (the first since since Inez in 1966). It passed just south of Key
West and then curved NW into the center of the Gulf, about 200 miles south
of Fort Walton Beach, where it intensified to Category 3 status.
While water temperatures in the middle Gulf were still warm, especially
for late November, as the system moved north toward the coast, it
encountered much cooler water and began to weaken. In addition, a strong
cold front had moved into the Panhandle and cold, dry air began to enter
the storm's circulation. By landfall, it had some non-tropical
characteristics, and had lost much of its intensity, but still caused wind
damage well inland around Tallahassee and coastal flooding in the Big Bend
region. Damage totaled about $300 million.
Source: Richard G. Henning, Staff Meteorologist, 46th Weather
Squadron, Eglin AFB, FL.