For the most part, Hurricane Dennis spared the Florida Panhandle highway infrastructure, hit so hard in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan, of further destruction.
Florida Dept. of Transportation feared that the Escambia Bay Bridge would sustain further damage from the Category 4 hurricane as it swept across Cuba. The storm weakened to a Category 3 before its eye made landfall between Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach. The strongest worst winds were east of Escambia Bay.
"There was no damage to the bridge. Our inspection teams didnt find any misalignments," says Tommie Speights, FDOT spokesman. The bridge reopened June 11 after passing inspection at 12:00 p.m., approximately 21 hours after the storm made landfall.
Dennis lacked a major storm surge such as the one that caused so much damage when Ivan struck the coast last September. "We did not get the hit we expected, the storm surge was not that bad," says Speights. The surge, which was projected to exceed 15 ft in places, was only in the 5-ft to 10-ft range, according to estimates.
The states coastal roadways survived the storm for the most part. "There was very little damage," says Speights. The only significantly damaged roadway was U.S. Highway 98. A 600-ft section of the road was washed away by the storm surge in a stretch between Fort Walton and Destin.
U.S. 98 often sustains storm damage because of its close proximity to the coast and lack of elevation, says Speights. The FDOT does not have a time frame for the repair of the road, he says.Related stories:
Deadly Hurricane Trio Whips Up New Debate Sept. 27, 2004
Contractor Tackles Fast Repairs to Hurricane-Ravaged Bridge Sept. 24, 2004
Gulf Coast Tallies Damage Sept. 17, 2004