On October 4, 1995, over 2000 km of coast-line stretching from southwest Florida to Louisiana was struck by storm-generated waves as Hurricane Opal moved northward across the Gulf of Mexico toward landfall east of Pensacola Beach, Florida (Figure 1).

Approximately 12 hours before landfall on October 4, Opal neared category 5 strength (measured on the Saffir/Simpson scale) with sustained wind speeds of over 65 m s−1. Storm surge levels of ∼5 m were estimated across the Northwest Florida shelf by the National Hurricane Center (NHC), resulting in the overwash of most of Santa Rosa Island, the most extensively affected section of coast in the Gulf.