Don't take down that plywood yet, just in case
Gulf Coast residents are grateful, and lucky, that damage from Hurricane Dennis was relatively light.
Although the cleanup will be difficult, several factors limited the destruction of the Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds when it hit land Sunday afternoon near Pensacola.
Because Dennis weakened significantly after landfall and moved quickly rather than lingering — and between major cities rather than through them — early estimates place the damage at $1 billion to $2.5 billion.
While that is certainly a disaster to those affected, it isn't nearly as bad as some experts feared. By comparison, hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jean caused a combined estimated $20 billion in damage last year.
So while thousands of residents of Alabama, Florida and Mississippi are without power and could be so for as long as three weeks, we can be thankful that Dennis did not cause more damage in the Southeastern United States. After all, the storm was responsible for at least 20 deaths in the Caribbean before reaching our shores.
In fact, residents of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, many of whom are still repairing damage from Ivan, were celebrating Dennis' relative weakness with champagne Monday morning.
Unfortunately, the celebration may be short-lived. The fifth tropical depression of the season was gaining strength early Monday far out in the Atlantic. Forecasters were predicting that it could become tropical storm Emily by today and reach the Florida coast by the weekend.
Gulf Coast residents may want to wait a few days before removing the plywood from their windows.