After meandering around in the Gulf of Mexico for several days and overcoming wind shear, Tropical Storm Barry finally began to get its act together during the early morning hours of August 5.  Located some 155 miles south of Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, the storm bombed out with winds increasing rapidly to 70 mph, just below hurricane strength.  The storm was forecast to become a minimal hurricane but did not make it before landfall.  Barry plowed into the western Florida panhandle just east of Destin, Florida shortly after midnight.  Richwood High School science teachers/storm chasers Melanie Johns and Don Wheeler departed Monroe, Louisiana at noon on August 5, to intercept the storm.  The following is a first hand account of the storm.

We arrived in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida shortly after 6:30 PM CDT to find several TV crews set up on the beach.  CNN, ABC, CBS, and FOX were the participants at the same beach head behind the Sheraton, which is where we decided to stay as well.  The ocean was quite agitated with large breakers some 8-10 feet crashing into the shore and adjacent pier.  We grabbed a quick bite and went quickly up to the room to look at radar images.  Upon careful study, it appeared the core of the storm would make landfall to our east between Destin and Panama City.  Looking at the cloud motion from northeast to southwest and knowing the storm was moving to the north, we knew we had to go east a few more miles (15-25 miles) to get into the core.

At around 10:30 PM, we shot east along the coast.  Wow!  What a difference a few miles made.  Winds rapidly increased with very heavy and blowing rain sheets.  Our first stop was in Destin.  Winds were from the north at 25-35 mph with gusts to just over 50 mph.  After a few pics, we went further east.  Wind and rain increased with time and distance east.  Approximately 8-10 miles east of Destin, we experienced the worst winds.  Power lines and transformers were popping frequently lighting the sky with an eerie blue glow followed by local power outages.  Debris was beginning to cross the road from time to time.

We stopped near a condo complex to observe the winds in a large, well lighted parking lot.  Here is where we experienced the strongest winds.  The anemometer in our vehicle recorded sustained speeds of 51 mph with a maximum gust of 72 mph!  The truck was really shaking.  What a rush!!

Below are some pics of the storm.  Keep in mind the storm made landfall at night and the quality of the pictures are far from ideal because of the darkness.  Most are actually from video stills as the digital camera requires a bit more light.

Tropical Storm Barry making landfall near Destin, Florida