PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) —Florida’s Panhandle is home to unmatched beauty, glorious weather, and dangerous hurricanes.

A database at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows 26 storms that were recorded as a category 2 or above that made landfall between the western edge of the state and just east of Tallahassee. The first 16 storms on the database, which begins in 1851, are unnamed. 

It is also interesting to note that given the size of damaging effects of some storms that sometimes locals might believe we were struck by a storm when it actually made landfall outside of the Panhandle.

Hurricane Ivan, for instance, struck Gulf Shores Alabama in 2004. But it caused damage along the Panhandle and spun out strong tornadoes in Callaway, Panama City Beach, Blountstown, and Marianna. 

The first named storm to hit the area was Florence in 1953. No deaths were reported but it did cause damage to hundreds of homes. The storm made landfall in what was then a sparsely populated area between Fort Walton Beach and Panama City Beach. 

A storm that may stick out for many seniors is Hurricane Eloise, a Category 3 storm that struck Bay County in 1975.

Eloise killed 80 people along the entire path of the storm. It destroyed 500 businesses and 8,000 people had storm-related losses between Fort Walton Beach and Panama City. The storm surge eroded about 800-thousand cubic yards of sand from the beach erosion.

The total damages in 1975 were $560 million.

In 1985 Hurricane Kate made landfall near Mexico Beach as a Category 2 storm. One of its biggest impacts was on the oyster industry in Gulf and Franklin Counties.

For Panama City Beach residents Hurricane Opal sticks out in the memory as a strong storm that caused both serious damages and lasting changes to the area. 

The storm was much stronger than first thought, rapidly strengthening from a Category 2 to a Category 4 and barreling down on the Panhandle. For a time, it looked like it might become a Category 5.

But that rapid intensification caused problems for emergency leaders who, (in the pre-internet days) could not urge people to leave town until it was almost too late. 

An evacuation was ordered the morning of the storm and roadways were jammed as people tried to flee. Then after the storm caused massive damage authorities shut down access to the county and prevented people (many of whom were irate) from returning to their homes. 

The lessons learned here directly changed how authorities handled the next two decades of storms. 

Finally, many Bay County residents are still living with the effects of Hurricane Michael, a category 5 storm that made landfall near Mexico Beach in October of 2018.

The storm essentially wiped out Tyndall Air Force Base, Mexico Beach and devastated Panama City, Jackson County and other inland areas. The storm was responsible for 59 deaths in the United States and caused $25 billion in damages.