pensacola beach

Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media

For the Pensacola area, Hurricane Ivan, which slammed the Florida-Alabama Gulf Coast 15 years ago, is now THE storm by which all others are compared.

Prior to that, it was Hurricane Opal in 1995 and Hurricane Frederic, which barreled ashore 40 years ago, in September 1979.

Frederic caused a lot of damage along the gulf coast and vividly changed the landscape of the region’s beaches, including Pensacola Beach.

Katie King / Pensacola News Journal

It’s been 15 years since Hurricane Ivan changed the landscape of northwest Florida. Back in 2004, Tom Ninestine was the Metro Editor of the Pensacola News Journal. Today, Tom is the Managing Editor here at WUWF. He recently sat down with a couple of colleagues who were working with him at the PNJ when the storm hit. This is part one of their conversation.

U.S. Navy on Flickr

Blue Angels Weekend visitors won’t have to worry about the $1 toll as entrance to Pensacola Beach will be free. Following public safety concerns because of backups on the bridge, Escambia County has worked to find quicker ways to move traffic. County Commissioner Robert Bender represents Santa Rosa Island and has been trouble shooting the problem.

National Hurricane Ctr.

Meet Tropical Storm Barry. The low pressure system meandering off the Gulf Coast is strengthening, and could become Hurricane Barry by this weekend. This is prompting calls to go out for residents to be ready.

Barry, at last check, is about 95 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving west at five miles an hour. For now, it’s a borderline tropical storm with 40 mile an hour sustained winds.

Abigail Megginson / WUWF

No one wants to pay for the same thing twice, but that’s what some beach residents are concerned about and trying to fight against.

“It’s just frankly not fair. We’re paying lease fees, we’re paying taxes,” said beach resident and President of the Pensacola Beach Advocates Terry Preston.

Ever since a court decision in 2011, residents have had to pay both property taxes to the county and lease fees to the island authority.

Protecting Pensacola Beach: How We Got Here

Apr 9, 2019
Abigail Megginson / WUWF

November 6, 2018. The long-awaited night of the midterm elections. And while most of the attention is focused on the tight Senate and gubernatorial races, there’s one Escambia County ballot initiative at the very bottom of the ballot that deserves a bit of notice, too:

The nonbinding county beach referendum.

It asked voters whether they supported public ownership of all land on Santa Rosa Island.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

A new Pensacola Bay ferry operator has been selected for the 2019 season, Gulf Islands National Seashore announced last week. One aim will be to forget an unsuccessful 2018 season.

HMS Ferries Inc. has signed a 10-year deal with the National Park Service to operate Turtle Runner and Pelican Perch — the two, 150-passenger ferries for pedestrians and bicycles which were built with four million dollars from the BP oil spill settlement.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Spring break along the Florida Panhandle’s sugar-white beaches is just around the corner, and the Santa Rosa Island Authority is out with some advice on how to make the visit a safe one.

Figures from Escambia County show 30,000 more visitors to Pensacola and Perdido Beaches last March than in March 2017, and the numbers are expected to be larger this time around. Paolo Ghio is Director of the Santa Rosa Island Authority, and says they’re ready after a busy off-season. 

Bob Barrett / WUWF News

If you took a walk on some sections of Pensacola Beach over the last few weeks, you may have come across some areas that were off limits to humans. "That's something that's been going on for years, now. It's just postings to mark off the fact that there are nesting shore birds in the area" said Becca Nelson, the Public Information Director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "We want people to know to keep their distance. We want people to respect those posted areas. A lot of times the birds and their nests and their hatchlings are hard to see.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Spring break season is underway at Pensacola Beach, and runs through mid-April for local schools, and until the end of April for others.

Allison Westmoreland is President of the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce says local merchants are keeping their fingers crossed for that record crowd on beaches, and in stores and restaurants.

“A lot of the hotels are already booking up,” said Westmoreland. “Social media is huge right now, so even just sharing one event on social media gets 10,000 views. I think that’s going to attract a lot of people in as well.”


As pleasant as it is to walk the beach in shorts and barefoot in January, I’m one who really likes winter. It brings, or at least used to bring, relief from the smothering humidity that blankets Northwest Florida’s summers. Not to mention the insects.

'Outdoors' most of the year means the beach or our creeks and rivers; hiking the woods and wet prairies is best left to the crisp, dry days of fall and winter, which this year have been few and far between. I’ve heard many complaints from hunters sweating in their blinds, not the outdoor experience they sought.


As an old editorial writer, I’m accustomed to offering criticism. But the necessary flip side of criticism is to offer praise when you think something is done properly. Anyway, some time ago I offered the opinion that planners working on fixing decades-old traffic problems on Pensacola Beach were stuck in the mud. They avoided addressing the fundamental problems by tinkering ineffectively around the edges.

Plans to begin ferry service between downtown Pensacola, Pensacola Beach and Fort Pickens are still set for next spring, but have been pushed back a few weeks. 

Next March was the original target date to launch the two boats and the triangular routes, but Dan Brown, Superintendent of Gulf Islands National Seashore, says some of the components of the service are meeting some challenges and delays.


Over more than 30 years as a reporter and editor at the Pensacola News Journal, I watched certain  community issues that never seemed to go away. Everyone agreed on the problem, but no one could agree on a solution.

So we debated the problem, over and over.

One such evergreen issue is traffic on Pensacola Beach. Actually, it’s two problems. Traffic, and parking.

I see no real solution for parking. This area is growing, and tourism is growing. What isn’t growing is the size of the beach. There simply isn’t room.

Jonathaon Beebe-Franqui

The numbers are in and by all counts, the Memorial Day beach cleanup program on Santa Rosa Island conducted by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community was a resounding success.

It’s a tall order to clean up after an estimated 75,000 people around the clock over a three-day period. But PSouth Operation Beach Clean organizer Dwayne Beebe-Franqui says everything was “fantastic.”