Hurricane Ivan

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This article deals with the 2004 Hurricane Ivan. For other storms of the same name, see Hurricane Ivan (disambiguation).

Hurricane Ivan
Hurricane Ivan as a Category 5.

Hurricane Ivan as a Category 5.
Duration Sep. 4 - Sep. 24, 2004
Highest winds 165 mph (270 km/h) sustained
Damages $16-18 billion
Fatalities 92 direct, 32 indirect
Areas affected The Windward Islands, especially Grenada; Jamaica; Grand Cayman; Cuba; Alabama, Florida, and much of the eastern United States; After rebirth, Texas and Louisiana.
Part of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Ivan was the ninth named storm, the sixth hurricane, the fourth major hurricane, and the only category 5 hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. It formed on September 2 as a tropical depression, became a tropical storm on September 3, and a hurricane on September 5. It was a Cape Verde-type hurricane that reached Category 5 strength on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, the highest possible category. Ivan also gained unprecedented intensity at low latitudes—Category 4 at only 10.6° N—after having existed for only a few days. Its minimum recorded pressure of 910 mbar makes it the ninth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record. It caused an estimated $13 billion worth of damage in the United States, making it the fourth costliest hurricane to ever strike the U.S.

Ivan struck Grenada directly on mid-day September 7 at Category 3 intensity, causing at least 39 deaths and damage to over 85% of the structures on the island. It continued across the Caribbean Sea, reaching Category 5 intensity before passing close to the Jamaican coast and Grand Cayman and crossing the western tip of Cuba. Twenty deaths were reported in Jamaica, and damage to over 80% of the buildings was reported on Grand Cayman.

Ivan then moved into the eastern Gulf of Mexico and weakened to a strong Category 3 storm. It continued on a track towards the north-northwest, making landfall in the U.S. near Gulf Shores, Alabama. After landfall, Ivan dropped heavy rains on the Southeastern United States, turned east, and then later looped south and through Florida and regenerated into a tropical storm for a short time in the Gulf of Mexico. The new tropical system moved into Louisiana and Texas, causing minimal damage.

Ivan broke several hydrological records; it is credited with possibly causing the largest ocean wave ever recorded, a 91-foot (27 meter) wave that may have been as high as 131 feet (40 m), and the fastest seafloor current, at 2.25 meters per second (5 miles per hour).[1]

The name Ivan was retired in the spring of 2005 by the World Meteorological Organization and will be replaced by Igor in the 2010 season.

As Hurricane Ivan's sustained 125 mph (200 km/h) winds wreaked havoc in the Caribbean, the swirling eye of the hurricane was photographed on September 11, 2004 from aboard the orbiting International Space Station (ISS) at an altitude of about 230 miles (370 km). Photo by science officer and flight engineer Edward Fincke.
As Hurricane Ivan's sustained 125 mph (200 km/h) winds wreaked havoc in the Caribbean, the swirling eye of the hurricane was photographed on September 11, 2004 from aboard the orbiting International Space Station (ISS) at an altitude of about 230 miles (370 km). Photo by science officer and flight engineer Edward Fincke.


Storm history

Storm path
Storm path

On September 2, 2004, Tropical Depression Nine formed about 555 miles (890 km) southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. The depression strengthened gradually to tropical storm status about 610 miles (980 km) southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, moving west-northwesterly at around 16 mph (25 km/h), and was given the name Ivan on September 3.

Early September 5, Tropical Storm Ivan's winds strengthened to hurricane status 1210 miles (1950 km) east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles. By 5 PM EDT, Ivan had rapidly strengthened to a strong category three hurricane (nearly a category four) on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale with winds of 125 mph (200 km/h). The National Weather Service noted such rapid strengthening was unprecedented at such low latitudes in the Atlantic basin.


Hurricane Ivan just west of Grenada in the Caribbean Sea on September 7, 2004 at 19:45 UTC (15:45 EDT). At the time, Ivan had maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (195 km/h), placing it at Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Visible satellite image courtesy NOAA.
Hurricane Ivan just west of Grenada in the Caribbean Sea on September 7, 2004 at 19:45 UTC (15:45 EDT). At the time, Ivan had maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (195 km/h), placing it at Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Visible satellite image courtesy NOAA.

As Ivan traveled west, it weakened to a Category 2 hurricane. But on September 7, shortly after passing over Grenada on its way into the Caribbean Sea, it retained Category 4 intensity with winds of 135 mph (215 km/h). Saint Lucia, St. Vincent, and Barbados were struck by the hurricane with Grenada suffering a significant direct battering for several hours.

As Ivan was passing just north of the Windward Netherlands Antilles and Aruba on September 9, sustained wind speed increased to 160 mph (260 km/h) thus classifying Ivan as a Category 5 hurricane. Following this milestone, Ivan fluctuated between category 4 and 5 status, which is typical of intense hurricanes.

Ivan continued west-northwest, heading straight for Jamaica. As Ivan approached the island late on September 10, it began a westward jog which kept the eye and the strongest winds to the south and west. However, because it still came very close to the Jamaican coast, and its winds were strongest on the north side, Jamaica still was battered with hurricane-force winds for hours. After clearing Jamaica, it resumed its more northerly track, and retained Category 5 intensity with sustained wind speeds of 165 mph (270 km/h). With minimum recorded central pressure at 910 millibars, Ivan is ranked as the ninth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record, as of 2005.

Ten most intense Atlantic hurricanes

Intensity is measured solely by central pressure

Rank Hurricane Year Minimum pressure
1 Wilma 2005 882 mbar (hPa)
2 Gilbert 1988 888 mbar (hPa)
3 Labor Day 1935 892 mbar (hPa)
4 Rita 2005 897 mbar (hPa)
5 Allen 1980 899 mbar (hPa)
6 Katrina 2005 902 mbar (hPa)
7 Camille 1969 905 mbar (hPa)
8 Mitch 1998 905 mbar (hPa)
9 Ivan 2004 910 mbar (hPa)
10 Janet 1955 914 mbar (hPa)
Source: The Weather Channel

Ivan spent most of September 11 traveling west at Category 4 strength, staying just off the southern coast of Jamaica. Ivan's intensity continued fluctuating, with the storm temporarily retaining Category 5 strength before passing within 30 miles (45 km) of Grand Cayman, bringing 180 mph winds onto the island.

After passing the Cayman Islands, Ivan brushed the western tip of Cuba late on September 13, with its eyewall coming on shore. With most of its central circulation staying offshore, Ivan was able to pass through the Yucatan Channel with no loss of strength. Once over the Gulf of Mexico, Ivan lost some strength, dropping back to a 140 mph (225 km/h) Category 4 hurricane, but maintained that intensity as it traveled north to the coast of the United States.

United States

Hurricane Ivan at landfall on the extreme eastern Alabama Gulf Coast.
Hurricane Ivan at landfall on the extreme eastern Alabama Gulf Coast.

Around 2 AM CDT September 16 (0700 UTC), Ivan struck the U.S. mainland near Gulf Shores, Alabama. At the time, Ivan's maximum sustained winds had dropped to 130 mph (210 km/h), which placed it on the boundary of Category 3/4 (it was officially declared a Cat 3 at landfall, although some sources classified it as a Cat 4). This drop in strength was accompanied by a disruption of Ivan's eyewall. Both NEXRAD operators and Hurricane Hunters reported that the southwestern portion of the eyewall had all but disappeared in the hours before landfall. As Ivan approached landfall, Florida Lt. Governor Toni Jennings described it as "the size of Frances but [with] the impact of Charley". [2]

Ivan continued inland, maintaining hurricane strength until it was over central Alabama. The city of Demopolis, over 100 miles inland in west-central Alabama, endured wind gusts estimated at 90 mph, while Montgomery saw wind gusts in the 60–70 mph range at the height of the storm. [3] Late on the 16th, Ivan weakened to a tropical depression over northeastern Alabama. On September 18, remnants of Ivan drifted off the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast into the Atlantic Ocean, and the low pressure disturbance continued to dump rain on the east coast of the United States.

Ivan lost tropical characteristics on September 18 while crossing Virginia. The remnant low crossed the coast of New Jersey later that day and advisories were discontinued. Nevertheless, on the morning of September 21, some of its remnants combined with a low-pressure system to pelt Cape Breton Island of Nova Scotia, Canada, with hurricane-force winds, flooding some roads, felling trees, and leaving thousands without power.

Ivan's "return"

Ivan reformed into a tropical depression on September 22, 2004 in the Gulf of Mexico after having traveled in a circular motion through the southeastern United States, causing tremendous flooding.
Ivan reformed into a tropical depression on September 22, 2004 in the Gulf of Mexico after having traveled in a circular motion through the southeastern United States, causing tremendous flooding.

An interesting development occurred on September 20 as a small surface low, caused by the southern remnants of Ivan, moved across the Florida peninsula. As it continued west across the northern Gulf of Mexico, the system organized and took on tropical characteristics. On September 22 the National Weather Service, "after considerable and sometimes animated in-house discussion [regarding] the demise of Ivan,"[4] determined that the low was in fact a result of the remnants of Ivan and thus named it accordingly.

On the evening of September 23, the revived Ivan made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, as a weak tropical storm. Ivan weakened quickly as it traveled overland into southeast Texas.


In the Caribbean, 500,000 Jamaicans were told to evacuate from coastal areas, but only 5,000 were reported to have moved to shelters. 12,000 residents and tourists were evacuated from Isla Mujeres off Yucatan.

In Louisiana, mandatory evacuations of vulnerable areas in Jefferson, Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist and Tangipahoa parishes took place, with voluntary evacuations in 6 other parishes ordered. More than one-third of the population of Greater New Orleans voluntarily evacuated. At the height of the evacuation, intense traffic congestion on local highways caused delays of up to 12 hours. About a thousand special-needs patients were housed at the Louisiana Superdome during the storm.

In Mississippi, evacuation of mobile homes and vulnerable areas took place in Hancock, Jackson and Harrison counties. In Alabama, evacuation in the areas of Mobile and Baldwin counties south of Interstate 10 was ordered, including a third of the incorporated territory of the City of Mobile, as well as suburbs such as Daphne, Fairhope, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Robertsdale, Foley, Fort Morgan, Bayou La Batre, Dauphin Island, Point Clear, Belle Fontaine, Coden, Grand Bay, Mon Luis and Hollinger's Island.

In Florida, a full evacuation of the Florida Keys began at 7:00 AM EDT September 10, but was lifted at 5:00 AM EDT September 13 as Ivan tracked further west than originally predicted. Voluntary evacuations were declared in ten counties along the Florida Panhandle, with strong emphasis in the immediate western counties of Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa

Aftermath and recovery

Costliest Atlantic hurricanes, 1851-2004
Cost refers to total estimated property damage.
Rank Hurricane Year Cost (2004 USD)
1 Andrew 1992 $43.672 billion
2 Fifi 1974 $20 billion (2005 USD)
3 Charley 2004 $15 billion
4 Ivan 2004 $14.2 billion
5 Hugo 1989 $12.25 billion
Source: NOAA

Ivan killed 64 people in the Caribbean—mainly in Grenada and Jamaica—three in Venezuela, and 25 in the United States, including fourteen in Florida. Thirty-two more deaths in the United States were indirectly attributed to Ivan. Tornadoes spawned by Ivan struck communities along concentric arcs on the leading edge of the storm.[5] Blountstown, Florida, Marianna, Florida and Panama City Beach suffered three of the most devastating tornadoes. A Panama City Beach news station was nearly hit by an F2 tornado during the storm. [6] Ivan also caused over $13 billion in damages in the United States and $3 billion in the Caribbean.


Aftermath of Ivan in Grenada
Aftermath of Ivan in Grenada

Ivan passed directly over Grenada on September 7, 2004, killing 29 people. The capital, St. George's, was severely damaged and several notable buildings were destroyed, including the residence of the prime minister. Ivan also caused extensive damage to a local prison, allowing most of the inmates to escape. The island, in the words of a Caribbean disaster official, suffered "total devastation". According to a member of the Grenadan parliament, at least 85% of the small island was devastated. [7] Extensive looting was reported.

Grenada suffered serious economic repercussions following the destruction caused by Ivan. Before Ivan, the economy of Grenada was projected to grow by 4.7%, but the island's economy instead contracted by nearly 3% in 2004. The economy was also projected to grow by at least 5% through 2007, but, as of 2005, that estimate had been lowered to less than 1%. The government of Grenada also admitted that the government debt—130% of the island's GDP—was "unsustainable" in October 2004, and appointed a group of professional debt advisors in January 2005 to try to alleviate the situation. [8]

More than $150 million was sent to Grenada in 2004 to aid reconstruction following Ivan, but the economic situation remains fragile. The IMF reports that as "difficult enough as the present fiscal situation is, it is unfortunately quite easy to envisage circumstances that would make it even more so." Furthermore, "shortfalls in donor financing and tax revenues, or events such as a further rise in global oil prices, pose a grave risk." [9]


On September 1112, Ivan passed over Jamaica, causing significant wind and flood damage. Looters were reported roaming the streets of Jamaica's capital city, Kingston (which appeared deserted), robbing emergency workers at gunpoint. Overall, 18 people were killed in Jamaica and 18,000 people were left homeless as a result of the flood waters and high winds. [10] Most of the major resorts and hotels fared well, though, and were reopened soon only a few days after Ivan had passed. [11]

Cayman Islands

In the Cayman Islands, governor Bruce Dinwiddy described damage as "very, very severe and widespread." A quarter of buildings on the islands were reported to be uninhabitable, with 80% damaged to some extent. Much of Grand Cayman Island still remained without power, water or sewer services ten days later. After five months, barely half the pre-Ivan hotel rooms were usable.

Rest of the Caribbean

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, a pregnant woman was killed in Tobago when a tree fell on top of her home, while another casualty was caused to a 75-year-old Canadian woman that drowned in Barbados. There were also four deaths in the Dominican Republic, and four in Venezuela. Over one-hundred fifty homes on Barbados and around 60 homes in St. Vincent and the Grenadines were also reportedly damaged. The regions' Caribbean Development Bank estimates Ivan caused over $3 billion damage on island nations, mostly in the Cayman Islands, Grenada and Jamaica.

United States

Hurricane Ivan sank and stacked numerous boats at Bayou Grande Marina at NAS Pensacola.
Hurricane Ivan sank and stacked numerous boats at Bayou Grande Marina at NAS Pensacola.

Along with the 14 deaths in Florida, Ivan is blamed for eight in North Carolina, two in Georgia, and one in Mississippi. There were an additional 32 deaths reported as indirectly caused by the storm.

Ivan caused an estimated $13 billion in damage in the United States alone, making it the third costliest hurricane on record at the time, being very near Hurricane Charley's $14 billion but well below Hurricane Andrew's $26 billion. Hurricane Hugo, which had been the second costliest hurricane since 1992, dropped to fourth after Charley and Ivan.

The heaviest damage as Ivan made landfall on the U.S. coastline was observed in Baldwin County in Alabama, where the storm's eye (and eyewall) made landfall, Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, dwellings situated far inland along the shorelines of Escambia Bay, East Bay, and Blackwater Bay in Escambia County and Santa Rosa County, and Fort Walton Beach, Florida on the eastern side of the storm. The area just west of Pensacola, including the community of Warrington which includes Pensacola NAS, Perdido Key, and Southwest Escambia County, took the brunt of the storm. Some of the subdivisons in this part of the county were completely destroyed. Shattered windows from gusts and flying projectiles experienced throughout the night of the storm were common. Early estimates had put damage in the United States at $5–$15 billion.

Damage to I-10 causeway over Escambia Bay near Pensacola
Damage to I-10 causeway over Escambia Bay near Pensacola

In Pensacola, the Interstate 10 bridge across Escambia Bay was heavily damaged, with as much as a quarter mile (400 m) of the bridge collapsing into the bay. The causeway that carries U.S. Highway 90 across the northern part of the same bay was also heavily damaged. Virtually all of Perdido Key, an area on the outskirts of Pensacola that bore the brunt of Ivan's winds and rain, was essentially leveled. High surf and wind brought extensive damage to Innerarity Point as well as Orange Beach just over the border from the Key in Alabama.

Hurricane Ivan toppled this large tree at NAS Pensacola.
Hurricane Ivan toppled this large tree at NAS Pensacola.

Further inland, Ivan caused major flooding, bringing the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta and many other rivers and streams to levels at or near 100-year records. The Delaware River and its tributaries crested just below their all-time records set by Hurricane Diane in 1955.

In Western North Carolina, many streams and rivers reached well above flood stage causing many roads to be closed. The Blue Ridge Parkway as well as Interstate 40 through the Pigeon River gorge in Haywood County, North Carolina, sustained major damage.

The hurricane also spawned deadly tornadoes as far north as Maryland,[12] and destroyed seven oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Finally, after Ivan regenerated in the Gulf of Mexico, it caused further heavy rainfall up to 8 inches (20 cm) in areas of Louisiana and Texas.

Hurricane Ivan is also suspected of bringing spores of soybean rust from Venezuela into the United States, the first ever occurrences of soybean rust found in North America. Since the Florida soybean crop had already been mostly harvested, economic damage was limited. Some of the most severe outbreaks in South America have been known to reduce soybean crop yields by half or more. [13]


  1. Ivan aims at Jamaica - Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - Jamaica Observer


  1. ^ “Ivan's stormy trek floods Southeast”, CNN, September 16, 2004.
  2. ^ National Hurricane Center's Tropical Depression IVAN Special Discussion Number 67, September 22 2004
  3. ^ “Cuba mostly spared Ivan's wrath”, Associated Press, September 15, 2004.
  4. ^ “Ivan's stormy trek floods Southeast”, CNN, September 16, 2004.
  5. ^ Video of the tornado
  6. ^ “Maryland women die in Ivan's wake”, The Washington Times, September 19, 2004.
  7. ^ Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (November 17, 2004). Soybean Rust Confirmed In Florida
  8. ^ “Grenada Making Comeback from Hurricane Ivan”, United States Department of State, February 24, 2005.
  9. ^ “U.S. Gives Jamaica $450,000 for School Equipment and Supplies”, United States Department of State, February 16, 2005.
  10. ^ “News Conference Report: Tourism impact on the Caribbean by Hurricanes Frances, Ivan, Jeanne”, CDERA, September 30, 2004.
  11. ^ “The ten-storey Mexican wave”, The Times, June 15, 2005.

See also

External links

Tropical cyclones of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season

















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