This month, twenty years ago the Treasure and Space Coasts were threatened by a storm out in the Atlantic. Erin represented the first post-Andrew panic on Florida’s East Coast and then hit the Panhandle just months before the much more powerful and destructive Opal.
I had come down to Jupiter for the Florida Young Democrats Convention from Gainesville where I was in my Junior year at UF. After the convention I went to my parents house in Coral Springs for a couple days and got stuck with no way to drive back to Gainesville until the following weekend because of the storm.
Erin, a Cat 1 storm was originally forecast to hit somewhere between Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach. But it confounded forecasters by experiencing shearing from upper-level winds, and rapidly moving northwesterly. So instead it made landfall near Vero Beach as a far weaker storm than anticipated. After tearing across the state it entered the gulf and re-intensified eventually becoming a Cat 2 and making a second landfall near Destin.
The storm was good preparation for the Panhandle prior to Opal which just a few months later left a trail of devastation. For the East Coast it amounted to a full-scale drill for future storms and a test of post-Andrew emergency mechanisms.