OPAL'S QUIRKY FURY

CAPPING THIS RECORD SEASON OF STORMS, A KILLER HURRICANE CATCHES FLORIDA'S GULF COAST BY SURPRISE

IT WAS DEADLY ENOUGH, but it could have been so much worse. If, for example, the tide had been high, instead of almost dead low. Or if the winds, which had been clocked at a near record 185 m.p.h. a few hours earlier, hadn't dropped to a howling but less than apocalyptic 144 m.p.h. when landfall occurred. Or if the tens of thousands of people living along the sugar-white beaches of Florida's panhandle hadn't torn themselves away from TV coverage of the Simpson verdict in time to flee the hurricane headed their way.

All this is no consolation to the families...

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