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Because of the strategic location and harbor protection, Pensacola has a rich and varied history. It has “changed hands” among nations 13 times, with periods of French, British, and Spanish occupation. A lumber boom in the late 1800’s also left its mark on architecture and historic sites. Today the city has a strong military presence with the Pensacola Naval Air Station, headquarters of the Blue Angels. Educational attainment is fairly high for a town of this type, and the 9000-student University of West Florida adds a college town element.
Santa Rosa Island, a barrier island containing the white sand beaches of the Gulf Island National Seashore, is a major draw for beach and water sports. The area has a distinct Southern flavor, and many refer to the entire Florida Panhandle as “LA” – Lower Alabama. Ferry Pass and Brent are suburbs north of downtown Pensacola, the former being the larger and more prosperous of the two. Cost of living and home prices are among the lowest in the state, especially for a beach area.
Pensacola is situated on a sandy slope bordering the Pensacola Bay breakwater. The Gulf of Mexico moderates the climate year-round. Summer temperatures are in the 80’s and 90’s, with an occasional 100-degree day if sea breezes diminish. Winter highs are usually in the 50’s. Freezing temperatures may occur December through February, but extended cold waves are infrequent. Rainfall is usually well distributed through the year, but is heaviest in July and August. Fall is relatively dry. Summer rain comes as thunderstorms while winter rains are lighter but occur over longer periods. Snow is observed in 3 out of 10 winters but measurable amounts are rare. Gulf hurricanes are a risk from early July to mid-October.
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