8 -The Michigan Daily - Friday, October 6, 1995
Hunicane Opal kills 1,eave trail of destuction in wake
PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) - Hurri-
cane Opal thrashed the Florida Pan-
handle with howling wind gusts up to
X144 mph Wednesday, flooding homes,
knocking down piers along the sugar-
,white beaches and forcing more than
J00,000 terrified people to flee inland.
At least one person was killed.
Even in this year of record hurricane
-activity, Opal stood out as a large and
-violent storm, one ofthe worst to hit the
area since Hurricane Camille killed 256
people in 1969.
"I think this one is going to clean our
lock," said Tom Beliech, who fled
Pensacola. "Erin gave us a deep respect
for knowing when to leave," he said,
referring to the hurricane that forced a
,similar exodus two months ago.
Opal's storm center blew across the
Air Force's Hurlburt Field, 25 miles
east of Pensacola, just after 6p.m. East
of Hurlburt, the National Hurricane
Center recorded sustained winds of 125
mph and gusts up to 144 mph.
AtI1p.m. yesterday, Opal was about
25 miles south of Montgomery, Ala.
Maximum sustained winds had
dropped to about 85 mph and forecast-
ers said the storm gradually would
weaken through the night as it headed
toward southern Alabama at about 23
At least 100,000 were evacuated from
a 150-mile stretch of Florida's Gulf
coast, from Pensacola to Wakulla Beach
south of Tallahassee, as the ninth hurri-
cane ofthe Atlantic storm season closed
Opal, which left 10 people dead in
Mexico, spun off at least seven torna-
does and caused flooding from storm
surges of up to 15 feet.
The storm's first U.S. victim was a
76-year-old woman whose mobile home
in Okaloosa County was destroyed by a
Thousands who waited too long to
evacuate were trapped in their homes.
Those who did flee bottled up traffic on
U.S. 29 -the main route north toward
is out and we're
losing some of the
shingles off the
- Justice Stroud
Witness to the hurricane
Alabama - and on eastbound Inter-
state 10, where traffic crawled at 5 mph.
An estimated 15,000 people sought
refuge in 42 emergency shelters. Sev-
eral shelters in Escambia County re-
ported food shortages, and one shelter
designed to hold 500 people was filled
with more than 900.
Justice Stroud and his family found
themselves trapped on Panama City
Beach, a barrier island, because the
roads were too crowded to leave.
"The electricity is out and we're los-
ing some of the shingles off the house,"
he said. "We can see a structure burning
down on the beach."
In Mexico Beach, a small town 25
miles east of Panama City, there were
reports that 12 houses washed into the
Gulf of Mexico, said city council mem-
ber Eadie Stewart.
"They don't really expect there to be
much left," Stewart said, fighting back
U.S. 98, a scenic coastline highway,
was flooded with water and debris from
smashed houses, she said.
"There are rooftops passing over 98
riding the waves," Stewart said, "going
from one side to the other."
In Panama City Beach, the end of the
city's new 1,500-foot concrete pier
crumbled into the Gulf. Waves crashed
over the bathhouses on top of the pier,
which is normally 15 to 20 feet above
At least 100 homes in Bay County
were destroyed and another 100 sus-
tainedmajordamage, said David Miller,
director of the county Emergency Man-
agement Agency. Panama City's ma-
rina was destroyed, and Miller expected
major damage to boats.
In Florarosa, a 100-foot abandoned
water tower toppled over, hitting a wa-
ter main and leaving eight blocks of
homes without water.
"I've been through a couple of hurri-
canes, but this one is really bad," said
Horace Crowson of Panama City Beach.
In Destin, west of Panama City,
there were reports of cars floating
down the streets, boats piled atop each
other and damaged buildings. The
storm ripped the roof off a high school
Opal knocked out electricity to about
357,000 people, or halfof Gulf Power's
customers, said company spokesman
Steve Higginbottom. He said it might
take up to a month to restore electricity
to remote areas.
Susan Davis comforts her 3-year-old son David during Hurricane Opal in Mobile, Ala., yesterday.
Another 130,000 customers lost elec-
tricity in Alabama, mostly in the Mo-
bile area. Alabama Power Co. officials
did not immediately know when it would
Many residents in Pensacola still had
not finished repairing homes and busi-
nesses battered in early August by Hur-
ricane Erin's 94 mph winds.
In Pensacola Beach, Don Wheeler
took one last look at his home, which
sustained $30,000 in damage from Erin,
before fleeing for Hattiesburg, Miss.
"Supposedly this one is going to make
the other one look like a sissy," he said.
"I'm afraid ... we're going to have an
awful lot of damage. We'll just come
back and rebuild."
State emergency officials mobilized
700 police officers and 3,500 National
Guardsmen to prevent looting and help
with the cleanup.
The Federal Emergency Management
Agency sent in relief teams and was
planning to fly in water and other sup-
President Clinton signed an emer-
gency declaration clearing the way for
federal help with cleanup and rebuild-
ing in Florida and Alabama.
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WASHINGTON (AP) - President
Clinton has decided to allow U.S. news
organizations to open bureaus in Cuba as
part of an effort to increase communica-
tion between Cubans and Americans,
administration officials said yesterday.
Clinton also will announce in a speech
he will deliver today that he hopes to
increase academic exchanges between
the two countries, the officials said.
The idea of allowing news bureaus to
operate in Cuba has been in the works
for almost two years. The administra-
tion has been holding back on an an-
nouncement because of opposition by
some Cuban exile lawmakers.
Under the proposal, the officials said,
Cuban media organizations also would
be allowed to open bureaus in the United
States. Just how soon such exchanges
could take place is unclear. Fidel
Castro's government would have to
We've been talking with the Cubans
for some time about opening an AP
bureau there, but the talks have
always hit the roadblock of relations
between Havana and Washington."
- Thomas Kent
AP international editor
Clinton OKs U.S. news bureaus in Cuba
approve the exchanges and it hasn't
been approached yet by the administra-
tion, officials said.
The last American news organiza-
tion was expelled from Cuba in the late
1960s. Successive administrations have
denied the media permission to open
offices in Cuba since then because of
the U.S. embargo against the island.
There was no immediate reaction to
Clinton's planned announcement from
Cuba's diplomatic mission here.
Officials believe the presence of U.S.
reporters will enable Americans to learn
more about rights abuses and wide-
spread deprivation in Cuba. In that
sense, the officials said, the measure
could not be seen as a benefit to the
To counter expected opposition from
some Cuban-Americans to today's an-
nouncements, the officials said Clinton
will spell out measures to beef up en-
forcement of the embargo.
They said too many people living in
the United States have been making
unauthorized travel to Cuba, often go-
ing there via Mexico or other Carib-
Clinton's plan calls for the station-
ing of agents with camera equipment
at airports with flights to an from
Cuba. A particular target is travelers
who try to enter Cuba with large sums
Clinton also will announce a "relax-
ation" of the rules in effect since Au-
gust 1994 that have made it more diffi-
cult for exiled Cubans to visit sick rela-
tives in Cuba.
One official said the backlog of ap-
plications for these visits is so long that
some exiles do not get permission to
travel until after their ailing relatives
have already died.
To remedy the problem, the-adminis-
tration will authorize once-per-year
travel by Cuban exiles with; family
members on the island.
"If people really need to go, theycan go
at a minute's notice," the official said.
Also, the administration will allow
U.S. human rights, environmental and
other non-government groups toesta
tblish links with similar organizations in
In Havana, officials with the Cuban
foreign ministry said there would be no
reaction until a U.S. announcement is
Jackson Diehl, foreign editor of The
Washington Post, said the newspaper
asked permission from Cuban authori-
ties a year ago to open a bureau.
"We're glad to hear from the U.S.
end it will be possible," Diehl said,
adding he is hopeful Cuba will agree as
The Associated Press also said it
would like to open a bureau in Cuba.
"We've been talking with the Cu-
bans for some time about opening an
AP bureau there, but the talks have
always hit the roadblock of relations
betweenHavanaand Washington," said
Thomas Kent, the AP's international
And The NewYork Times said it was
"highly interested" in opening a bu-
reau. "But (we) would need to 'lern as
much as we could about the working
conditions that would be made avail-
able to us," said Nancy Nielsen, a
spokeswoman for the newspaper.
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