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Hurricane Sally punched 3 holes in this Florida island

Before-and-after photos offer snapshot of Category 2 storm’s destructive force

Satellite images show what Perdido Key looked like before and after Hurricane Sally made landfall along the Gulf Coast.
Satellite images show what Perdido Key looked like before and after Hurricane Sally made landfall along the Gulf Coast. (Courtesy of NOAA)

Hurricane Sally left its mark on Florida when it slammed into the Gulf Coast this month.

The hurricane made landfall as a Category 2 storm Sept. 16, lashing buildings with 105-mph winds, dropping over two feet of rain in some parts of the Panhandle and leaving behind billions of dollars in damage.

But perhaps the clearest visual evidence of Sally’s destructive force can be found at the easternmost point of Perdido Key, a barrier island situated southwest of Pensacola.

Satellite images captured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration before and after Sally’s arrival show the three holes the hurricane punched in the uninhabited stretch of the barrier island.

[APP USERS: View the interactive before-and-after embed]

Dan Brown, superintendent of Gulf Islands National Seashore, said he hasn’t seen a breach like this in the decade he’s spent working there but noted that it has happened in the past.

“We’re waiting to see what happens with those three breaches, if there’s enough sand for them to heal themselves or not,” Brown said.

He said it’s not unusual for storms to create the kind of overwash that results in breaches — Hurricane Sandy cut similar holes in Fire Island when it came ashore in 2012, breaches that have yet to be filled.

“Sometimes breaches are so expansive that they’re not able to heal up naturally, but those things happen with barrier islands,” Brown told News4Jax in a phone interview Monday.

He said it’s too early to say if the Perdido Key breaches will heal on their own.

In general, Brown said, the National Park Service allows nature to run its course — unless, of course, there are man-made impacts that contributed to a breach.

“We let nature be nature,” he said. “We don’t stare out at the rim of the Grand Canyon and it look at it as an erosion problem that needs to be fixed.”

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Storm damaged boats sit at the dock in a marina, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Pensacola, Fla. Rivers swollen by Hurricane Sally's rains threatened more misery for parts of the Florida Panhandle and south Alabama on Thursday, as the storm's remnants continued to dump heavy rains inland that spread the threat of flooding to Georgia and the Carolinas.(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

About the Author:

A Florida transplant with Midwest roots, Garrett Pelican is the digital executive producer for News4Jax.