This day in history: Hurricane Kate makes landfall in Florida

By: Brittany Bedi | WCTV Eyewitness News
November 21, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Hurricane Kate is popular topic when it comes to notable hurricanes in the area. November 21 marks 32 years since the hurricane made landfall.

Kate struck the North Florida coast late that night as a weak category two hurricane. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), maximum winds at flight level for the reconnaissance aircraft was measured at 125 mph.

A NOAA buoy nearby also recorded an eight-minute average winds speed of approximately 107 mph. The strongest wind measured along the coast was at 73 mph.

More than eight inches of rain fell in areas near Panama City, Florida. One to five inches of rain spanned across the Big Bend and into South Georgia. The storm later exited the Atlantic coast by the following evening.

The storm passed quickly, but damages were felt long after its passage. Kate hit a week before Thanksgiving that year. High winds downed several trees and knocked down power lines.

Bobby Kennedy, a co-owner at Music Masters in Tallahassee, said he was playing music at a local lounge the night Kate made landfall.

"It was blowing crazy. We shouldn't have even been out that night because it was that bad," said Kennedy. "We got to my mother's house. There were nine trees down in her yard. They were twisted, it looked like chopsticks at all different angles."

Frank Hranicky, a former WCTV anchor and reporter, recalls working the night of the storm, saying he had to turn back to work after leaving because downed trees were blocking the roads.

“We had helicopter some folks in to take over for us because we couldn’t go home to change,” said Hranicky.

After the storm, Hranicky recalls the community banding together.

"I remember Banjo's Barbecue on the parkway actually set up grills outside and grilled dinners for people, so you could go by and pick them up. That's what we had for Thanksgiving, power was out."

According to the 1985 NOAA Atlantic Hurricane Season Summary, at least 100,000 people evacuated in the coastal Florida Panhandle. Damages were estimated near $300 million in 1986.

Hurricane Kate holds the NHC record as the latest land falling hurricane to hit the U.S. in a calendar year.

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