Hurricane Elena in 1985, from the Space Shuttle. September 1.

Elena in 1985 formed as a tropical storm over Cuba on August 27th. It moved northwestward into the Gulf of Mexico and became a hurricane on August 29th. Steering winds weakened dramatically the next day allowing Hurricane Elena to move toward the east-northeast, toward the west coast of Florida. It then made a loop near Cedar Key Florida and began moving west-northwestward. On September 2nd, it made landfall near Biloxi, Mississippi as a Category 3.

Outside of damage at landfall, Elena may be remembered most for the length of time in the Gulf with an uncertain path, taking a full loop and forcing many evacuations.

Hurricane Elena impacted the coasts of the Florida Panhandle and Alabama too. Storm Surge from the Panhandle to Mississippi ranged from several feet to over 7 feet. Winds from Dauphin Island to the Mississippi coast, ranged from 90mph to over 100mph, with highest gusts measured over 130mph.

Damage costs at the time were over 1.25 billion dollars. While over a million people had to evacuate at some point, the death toll stayed in single digits.

Here’s more on the impact of Elena from the Los Angeles Times and from the Bowling Green Daily News.

Hurricane Elena Track in 1985
Hurricane Elena Track in 1985