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Dennis Comparable to Major Hurricanes Ivan, Katrina

July 9, 2010

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Chad Merrill

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Hurricane Dennis, the opening salvo for the record 2005 hurricane season, was eerily similar to two other major storms that left their mark in history; Ivan in 2004 and Katrina later in the 2005 season. While Dennis`s rampage was not as extraordinary as Ivan or Katrina, its own records will linger in the history books for years to come.

Dennis was similar in magnitude to Hurricane Ivan, a storm that walloped the Gulf Coast in September of 2004. Ivan made landfall as a category 3 storm in Gulf Shores, Ala., early on September 16, 2004. Dennis was also a category 3 hurricane that made landfall 300 miles east of Ivan at Santa Rosa Island, Fla., on July 10, 2005.

The difference, though, was in the destruction produced from the storms. The price tag from Hurricane Ivan was nearly seven times that of Dennis in 2005. The U.S. suffered $2.23 billion in destruction from Dennis while Ivan left $14 billion in damages. Dennis had far less of an impact than Ivan because Dennis moved faster across the Florida Panhandle, was a smaller storm and the area it hit was not fully rebuilt from Ivan`s devastating blow a year earlier. In total, Dennis left almost 700,000 in the dark across the Southeast, the equivalence of half the population of Jacksonville, Fla.

Dennis produced copious rainfall totals. Topes de Collantes, Cuba recorded 27.67 inches of rain in 24 hours, equivalent to half of Florida`s annual rainfall. The second highest rainfall reported was from Mavis Bank, Jamaica, with 24.54 inches while Shirley Castle, Jamaica, was doused with 23.27 inches.

Although not as significant, Florida`s western Panhandle and Alabama were soaked with 6 to 12 inches of rain as the storm came onshore on July 10, 2005. A station near Camden, Ala., had as much rain from Dennis in three days as Miami normally gets in the first 5 months of a year, registering a whopping 12.80 inches. The highest rainfall total in Florida was in Monticello with 6.95 inches.

Hurricane Dennis was well known for going through sweeping intensification periods similar to historical Hurricane Katrina later that same season. The central pressure in Dennis fell 31-mb in 24 hours when it became a category 4 storm for the first time in the Atlantic. The storm quickly weakened from a major category 4 hurricane with winds of 138 mph at landfall near Punta del Ingles, Cuba, late on July 8, 2005 to a category 1 storm with winds of 86 mph early the following morning.

When Dennis emerged back into the Gulf of Mexico later that same day, it intensified as rapidly as Katrina ever did in 24 hours. Its central pressure plummeted 37-mb in 24 hours just like Katrina experienced after it emerged off the Florida coast into the Gulf of Mexico a month later. The pressure inside Hurricane Dennis then fell another 20-mb in 6 hours in the Gulf of Mexico. The same pressure fluctuation happened to Katrina just before it peaked as a strong category 5 hurricane in the central Gulf of Mexico. Dennis also experienced another 11-mb drop in 35 minutes during its journey through the Gulf of Mexico.

By the time the storm`s wrath was through, 42 people died with 22 of them in Haiti, 16 in Cuba, 3 in the U.S., and 1 in Jamaica. Recovery centers quickly became established in the Southeast, helping residents get back on their feet following an early wallop in the 2010 hurricane season.

Dennis helped ignite the spark to what became the most active Atlantic tropical season on record with 27 named storms, 15 of which became hurricanes and 7 that developed into major hurricanes.

Stay with WeatherBug for more special feature stories on the major hurricanes that shaped the 2005 record-breaking season. Check WeatherBug`s hurricane page for the latest features and get the latest updates anywhere on Twitter at WeatherBug WeatherBuzz.

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Story Images: The aftermath of Hurricane Dennis is clearly visible across Florida in mid-July of 2005. (WeatherBug user photos)

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