PENSACOLA, Fla. – Longtime residents of the Panhandle and south Alabama couldn’t help but note the date when Hurricane Sally made landfall at 4:45 this morning in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
It was 16 years to the day when Hurricane Ivan, a Category 3 storm, made landfall in nearly the exact spot. And at nearly the same time of day — 2:50 a.m.
Ivan caused more than $27 billion in damage in the United States. Much of the damage might sound familiar to those paying attention to Sally’s path of wreckage. Ivan took out power and phone lines, and an area between Orange Beach and Atmore received 10-15 inches of rain.
The damage wrought by Hurricane Ivan
On Sept. 16, 2004, Ivan hammered the Gulf Coast with 120 mph winds. By the time it had dissipated, Ivan was responsible for 57 deaths in the United States and another 67 in other countries, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.
Ivan’s waves and 10-15 feet of storm surge severely damaged parts of the I-10 bridge system over Pensacola Bay. In an after-season report, the National Hurricane Center said as much as a quarter-mile of the bridge collapsed into the bay.
For those who lived through it, Ivan was nothing short of harrowing. Pensacola News-Journal reporter Kimberly Blair wrote in an email that Ivan was the stuff of nightmares: “We tried to flee again. The wind must have been blowing about 70 or 80 mph. A huge pine tree was lying across the front on my house. We all held on to each other and waded out to the cars in the driveway. Debris was flying all over the place.”
It reduced some neighborhoods to rubble in Pensacola. Homes became piles of wooden planks. But neighbor helped neighbor and the city rebuilt.
Ivan was also a power source for tornadoes, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. An outbreak of 117 tornadoes occurred across nine states as a result of Ivan’s trip through the United States. At one point more than 1.8 million people were without electricity across nine states.
The remarkable track of Hurricane Ivan
Hurricane Ivan’s path was likely one of the most remarkable in weather history. It was at one point a Category 5, and it actually made two landfalls in the United States, according to the National Hurricane Center’s report on the storm.
After forming off the coast of Africa on Aug. 31, Ivan gathered steam quickly, becoming first a Category 4 by Sept. 3. It then became a Category 5 as it moved through the Caribbean Sea, causing massive damage to Grenada and the Canary Islands.
Once Ivan had hit the Gulf coast, and after moving through the southern U.S. and exiting around the Delmarva peninsula, it made a second trip into the U.S.
According to the National Hurricane Center’s report, after becoming an extratropical low, Ivan moved south, crossed southern Florida back into the Gulf, and on Sept. 22, had reformed into a tropical depression. It continued to gain strength, becoming a tropical storm once more, and made landfall in southwest Louisiana on Sept. 24 as a tropical depression before finally disbanding over Texas.
Ivan existed for 22½ days and produced a track more than 5600 miles long, according to a report made by the National Hurricane Center.
Follow Jonathan Tully on Twitter: @jtullypbp.