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Hurricane Ivan History

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Hurricane Ivan History

The name 'Ivan' was retired in the Spring of 2005. It will be replaced in 2010 by 'Igor'.

September 2, 2004

Highest Wind Speed: 165 mph (270 km/h) on September 11, 2004

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.

Ivan Hurricane Storm History

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

Early September 5, Tropical Storm Ivan's winds strengthened to hurricane status 1210 miles east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles. By 6PM 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. The National Weather Service noted such rapid strengthening was unprecedented at such low latitudes in the Atlantic basin. 

Caribbean Tour

Ivan just west of Grenada in the Caribbean Sea on September 7, 2004 at 15:45 EDT. At the time, Ivan had maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, placing it at Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

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. St. Vincent, Grenada and Barbados were thereafter battered by the hurricane 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 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. After clearing Jamaica, it resumed its more northerly track, and retained Category 5 intensity with sustained wind speeds of 165 mph . With minimum recorded central pressure at 910 millibars, Ivan is ranked as the sixth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record. 

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 of Grand Cayman at Category 4, bringing hurricane force winds onto the island.

After passing the Cayman Islands, Ivan retained Category 5 strength and 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 mphCategory 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.

Around 2 am September 16 , Ivan struck the U.S. mainland near Gulf Shores, Alabama. At the time, Ivan's maximum sustained winds had dropped to 120 mph . 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.

Ivan continued inland, maintaining hurricane strength until it was over central Alabama. Late on the 16th, Ivan weakened to a tropical depression over northeastern Alabama. On September 18, remnants of Ivan drifted off the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States 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.

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 the demise of Ivan," 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.


Ivan passed directly over Grenada on September 7, 2004, killing at least 34 people. The capital, St. George's, Grenada, 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", or more concretely, according to a member of the Grenadan parliament, devastation of at least 85% of the small. Extensive looting was also reported.

Among the dead were 20 Jamaicans, a pregnant woman killed in Tobago, and a 75 year old Canadian-woman who drowned in Barbados. There were also four deaths in the Dominican Republic, and four in Venezuela.

Ivan also damaged hundreds of homes in Barbados and at least 60 homes in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

On September 11, Ivan passed over Jamaica, causing significant wind and flood damage. Early reports suggested at least 14 people had been killed. Looters were reported roaming the streets of Jamaica's capital city robbing emergency workers at gun point. 

Governor Bruce Din Widdy described damage in the Cayman Islands 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. 

Ivan killed 65 people in the Caribbean, three in Venezuela and 26 in the United States, including fifteen in Florida. 31 more deaths in the U.S. were indirectly attributed to Ivan. Tornadoes spawned by Ivan struck communities along concentric arcs on the leading edge of the storm. Panama City Beach suffered two of the most devastating tornadoes. A Panama City Beach news station was nearly hit by an Fujita scale F2 tornado during the storm.

The heaviest damage as Ivan touched the U.S. coastline was observed in Baldwin County, Alabama on the western side of the storm, and Pensacola Florida on the eastern and windy leading edge of the storm. Shattered windows from gusts and flying projectiles experienced throughout the night of the storm were common. Early estimates had put damage in the U.S. at $5 to15 billion. 

In Pensacola, the Interstate I-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. 

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 regions' Caribbean Development Bank estimates Ivan caused over $3 billion damage on island nations, mostly in the Cayman Islands, Grenada and Jamaica. Ivan caused an estimated $13 billion in damage in the U.S. alone, making it the third costliest hurricane on record, being very near Hurricane Charley's $14 billion and 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 hurricane also spawned deadly tornadoes as far north as Maryland 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 in areas of Louisiana and Texas. 

Hurricane Ivan is also suspected of bringing spores of soybean rust from Venezuela into the United States.

The name 'Ivan' was retired in the Spring of 2005. It will be replaced in 2010 by 'Igor'.

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