Hurricane Ivan

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Natural Disasters

Hurricane Ivan
Category 5 hurricane ( SSHS)
Hurricane Ivan as a Category 5

Hurricane Ivan as a Category 5
Formed September 2, 2004
Dissipated September 24, 2004
165 mph (270 km/h) (1-minute sustained)
Lowest pressure 910  mbar ( hPa; 26.88  inHg)
Fatalities 92 direct, 32 indirect
Damage $19.2 billion (2004 USD)
$21.91 billion (2008 USD)
Windward Islands (especially Grenada), Venezuela, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cuba, Alabama, Florida, and most of the eastern United States, (after rebirth) Texas, Louisiana
Part of the
2004 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Ivan was the strongest hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. The cyclone formed as a Cape Verde-type hurricane in early September and became the ninth named storm, the sixth hurricane, and the fourth major hurricane of the year. Ivan reached Category 5 strength on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, the strongest possible category. Ivan became the sixth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record. At its peak in the Gulf of Mexico, Ivan was the size of the state of Texas. It also spawned 117 tornadoes across the eastern United States.

Ivan caused catastrophic damage to Grenada and heavy damage to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and the western tip of Cuba. After peaking in strength, the hurricane moved north-northwest across the Gulf of Mexico to strike Gulf Shores, Alabama as a strong Category 3 storm, causing significant damage. Ivan dropped heavy rains on the Southeastern United States as it progressed northeast and east through the eastern United States, becoming an extratropical cyclone. The remnant low from the storm moved into the western subtropical Atlantic and regenerated back into a tropical cyclone, which then moved across Florida and the Gulf of Mexico into Louisiana and Texas, causing minimal damage. Ivan caused an estimated US$13 billion (2004 USD) in damages to the United States, making it the fifth costliest hurricane ever to strike that country.

Storm history

Storm path
Storm path
The eye of Hurricane Ivan as seen from the International Space Station on September 11, 2004.
The eye of Hurricane Ivan as seen from the International Space Station on September 11, 2004.

On September 2, 2004, Tropical Depression Nine formed from a large tropical wave southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. As the system moved to the west, it strengthened gradually, becoming Tropical Storm Ivan on September 3 and reaching hurricane strength on September 5, 1,150 miles (1,850 km) to the east of Tobago. Later that day, the storm intensified rapidly, and by 5 p.m. EDT (2100 UTC), Ivan became a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 125 mph (201 km/h). The National Hurricane Centre said that the rapid strengthening of Ivan on September 5 was unprecedented at such a low latitude in the Atlantic basin.

As it moved west, Ivan weakened slightly because of vertical wind shear in the area. The storm passed over Grenada on September 7, battering several of the Windward Islands as it entered the Caribbean Sea. Ivan reintensified rapidly and became a Category 5 hurricane just north of the Windward Netherlands Antilles and Aruba on September 9 with winds reaching 160 mph (260 km/h). Ivan weakened slightly as it moved west-northwest towards Jamaica. As Ivan approached the island late on September 10, it began a westward jog that kept the eye and the strongest winds to the south and west. However, due to its proximity to the Jamaican coast, the island was battered with hurricane-force winds for hours.

Most intense Atlantic hurricanes
Intensity is measured solely by central pressure
Rank Hurricane Season Min. pressure
1 Wilma 2005 882 mbar ( hPa)
2 Gilbert 1988 888 mbar (hPa)
3 "Labor Day" 1935 892 mbar (hPa)
4 Rita 2005 895 mbar (hPa)
5 Allen 1980 899 mbar (hPa)
6 Katrina 2005 902 mbar (hPa)
7 Camille 1969 905 mbar (hPa)
Mitch 1998 905 mbar (hPa)
Dean 2007 905 mbar (hPa)
10 Ivan 2004 910 mbar (hPa)
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce

After passing Jamaica, Ivan resumed a more northerly track and regained Category 5 strength. Ivan's strength continued to fluctuate as it moved west on September 11, and the storm attained its highest winds of 170 mph (270 km/h) as it passed within 30 miles (48 km) of Grand Cayman. Ivan reached its peak strength with a minimum central pressure of 910  mbar ( hPa) on September 12, making Ivan the tenth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record, as of August 2007. Ivan passed through the Yucatán Channel late on September 13 while its eyewall affected the westernmost tip of Cuba. Once over the Gulf of Mexico, it weakened slightly to Category 4 strength, which it maintained while approaching the Gulf Coast of the United States.

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

Just before it made landfall in the United States, Ivan's eyewall weakened considerably, and its southwestern portion almost disappeared. Around 2 a.m. CDT September 16 (0700 UTC), Ivan made landfall on the U.S. mainland in Gulf Shores, Alabama as a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph (190 km/h) winds. Ivan then continued inland, maintaining hurricane strength until it was over central Alabama. Ivan weakened rapidly that evening and became a tropical depression the same day, still over Alabama. Ivan lost tropical characteristics on September 18 while crossing Virginia. Later that day, the remnant low drifted off the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast into the Atlantic Ocean, and the low pressure disturbance continued to dump rain on the United States.

On September 20, Ivan's remnant surface low completed an anticyclonic loop and 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," 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 tropical depression. Ivan finally dissipated on September 24 as it moved overland into Texas.


Highest ACE hurricanes
(since 1850)
Rank Name Season ACE
1 "San Ciriaco" 1899 73.57
2 Ivan 2004 70.38
3 "Four" 1926 67.59
4 Donna 1960 64.55
5 "Charleston" 1893 63.53
Main article: Accumulated Cyclone Energy
Source: This list
Ivan as a Category 3 hurricane east of the Windwards on September 5, 2004.
Ivan as a Category 3 hurricane east of the Windwards on September 5, 2004.

Ivan set several new records for intensity at low latitudes. When Ivan first became a Category 3 hurricane on September 5 (1800 UTC), it was centered near 10.2 degrees north. This is the most southerly location on record for a major hurricane in the Atlantic basin. Just six hours later, Ivan also became the most southerly Category 4 hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin when it reached that intensity while located at 10.6 degrees north. Finally, at midnight (UTC) on September 9 while centered at 13.7 degrees north, Ivan became the most southerly Category 5 hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin. Hurricane Felix nearly matched this record in 2007, becoming a Category 5 hurricane at 13.8 degrees north latitude.

Ivan had the world record of 33 (32 consecutive) six-hour periods with an intensity at or above Category 4 strength. This record was broken two years later by Pacific Hurricane/Typhoon Ioke, which had 36 (33 consecutive) six-hour periods at Category 4 strength. This contibuted to Ivan's total ACE of 70.38, second only to the 1899 Hurricane San Ciriaco.

Scientists from the Naval Research Laboratory at Stennis Space Centre, Mississippi have used a computer model to predict that, at the height of the storm, the maximum wave height within Ivan's eyewall reached 131 feet (40 m).


In the Caribbean, 500,000 Jamaicans were told to evacuate from coastal areas, but only 5,000 were reported to have moved to shelters. Many schools and businesses were closed in the Netherlands Antilles, and about 300 people evacuated their homes on Curaçao. 12,000 residents and tourists were evacuated from Isla Mujeres off the Yucatán Peninsula.

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 ordered in six other parishes. More than one-third of the population of Greater New Orleans evacuated voluntarily, including more than half of the residents of New Orleans itself. 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. Ivan was considered a particular threat to the New Orleans area because dangers of catastrophic flooding. However, Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes suffered a moderate amount of wind damage. Hurricane preparedness for New Orleans was judged poor. At one point, the media sparked fears of an "Atlantean" catastrophe if the hurricane were to make a direct strike on the city. These fears were not realized, as the storm's path turned further east. The publicity generated may have contributed to the somewhat more effective evacuation of the city in preparation for Hurricane Katrina a year later, however.

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 several of its suburbs.

In Florida, a full evacuation of the Florida Keys began at 7:00 a.m. EDT September 10 but was lifted at 5:00 a.m. 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.

Ivan prompted the evacuation of 270 animals at " The Little Zoo That Could" in Alabama. The evacuation had to be completed within a couple of hours, with only 28 volunteers available to move the animals.


Deaths from Hurricane Ivan
Country Total Region or State Area
Barbados 1 1
Cayman Islands 2 1
Dominican Republic 4 4
Grenada 39 39
Jamaica 17 17
Trinidad and Tobago 1 Tobago 1 1
USA 54 Alabama 5 0
Connecticut 1 0
Florida 19 14
Georgia 4 2
Louisiana 4 0
Maryland 1 0
Mississippi 3 1
North Carolina 10 8
Pennsylvania 6 0
Tennessee 1 0
Venezuela 3 3
Totals 121 91
Because of differing sources, totals may not match.

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. In Florida, Blountstown, Marianna, 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. Ivan also caused over US$13 billion in damages in the United States and US$3 billion in the Caribbean (2004 USD).

Southeastern Caribbean and Venezuela

Aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in Grenada
Aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in Grenada

Ivan passed directly over Grenada on September 7, 2004, killing 39 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 Grenadian parliament, at least 85% of the small island was devastated. Extensive looting was reported. In all, damage on the island totaled US$815 million (2004 USD).

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, a pregnant woman was killed in Tobago when a tree fell on top of her home, and a 75-year-old Canadian woman drowned in Barbados. Three deaths were reported in Venezuela. Over one-hundred fifty homes on Barbados and around 60 homes in St. Vincent and the Grenadines were also reportedly damaged.


On September 11 and September 12, the centre of Ivan passed near 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, 17 people were killed in Jamaica and 18,000 people were left homeless as a result of the flood waters and high winds. Most of the major resorts and hotels fared well, though, and were reopened only a few days after Ivan had passed. Damage on Jamaica totaled US$360 million (2004 USD).

Cayman Islands

Ivan damage in the Cayman Islands.
Ivan damage in the Cayman Islands.

In the Cayman Islands, Governor Bruce Dinwiddy described damage as "very, very severe and widespread." A quarter or more of the buildings on the islands were reported to be uninhabitable, with 85% damaged to some extent. Much of Grand Cayman still remained without power, water, or sewer services for several months later. After five months, barely half the pre-Ivan hotel rooms were usable. Only two people were killed on the islands, though at first many deaths were suspected due to the many graves that were washed up during the storm. The damage totaled US$1.85 billion (2004 USD) in the Cayman Islands.

Rest of the Caribbean

There were four deaths in the Dominican Republic. The region's Caribbean Development Bank estimates Ivan caused over US$3 billion (2004 USD) damage on island nations, mostly in the Cayman Islands, Grenada, and Jamaica. Minor damage, including some beach erosion, was reported in the ABC islands.

Even though Ivan did not make landfall on Cuban soil, its storm surge caused localized flooding on Santiago de Cuba and Granma, on the southern part of the island. At Cienfuegos, the storm produced waves of 15 feet (4.6 m), and Pinar del Río recorded 339 millimetres (13.3 in) of rainfall. While there were no casualties on the island, the Cuban government estimates that about US$1.2 billion (2004 USD) of property damage were directly due to Ivan.

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 deaths in North Carolina, two in Georgia, and one in Mississippi. An additional 32 deaths were reported as indirectly caused by the storm.

Ivan caused an estimated US$13 billion (2004 USD) in damage in the United States alone, making it the third costliest hurricane on record at the time, being very near Hurricane Charley's US$14 billion but well below Hurricane Andrew's US$26 billion. Ivan displaced Hurricane Hugo, which had previously held the third spot. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused US$81 billion in damage, displacing Ivan to fourth place, and Hurricane Wilma caused US$20 billion in damage, displacing Ivan again to fifth place.

Costliest U.S. Atlantic hurricanes
Cost refers to total estimated property damage.
Rank Hurricane Season Cost (2005 USD)
1 Katrina 2005 $81.2 billion
2 Andrew 1992 $44.9 billion
3 Wilma 2005 $20.6 billion
4 Charley 2004 $15.4 billion
5 Ivan 2004 $14.6 billion
Main article: List of Atlantic hurricanes


Heavy damage as Ivan made landfall on the U.S. coastline was observed in 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 subdivisions in this part of the county were completely destroyed, with a few key roads in the Perdido area only opened in late 2005, over a year after the storm hit. Shattered windows from gusts and flying projectiles experienced throughout the night of the storm were common. As of December 2007, roads remained closed on Pensacola Beach due to damage from Ivan's storm surge.

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 0.25 miles (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.

On September 26, 2006, over two years after Ivan struck the region, funding for the last 501 FEMA-provided trailers ran out for those living in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties.


The city of Demopolis, over 100 miles (160 km) inland in west-central Alabama, endured wind gusts estimated at 90 mph (140 km/h), while Montgomery saw wind gusts in the 60 mph (97 km/h) to 70 mph (110 km/h) range at the height of the storm.

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. High surf and wind brought extensive damage to Orange Beach near the border with Florida. There, two five-story condominium buildings were undermined to the point of collapse by Ivan's storm surge of 14 feet (4.3 m). Both were made of steel-reinforced concrete. Debris gathered in piles along the storm tide, exaserbating the damage when the floodwaters crashed into homes sitting on pilings. Brewton, a community about 50 miles (80 km) inland, also suffered severe damage.

In addition to the damage to the southern portions of the state, there was extensive damage to the state's electrical grid. At the height of the outages, Alabama Power reported 489,000 subscribers had lost electrical power—roughly half of its subscriber base.

Ivan Rainfall in the United States
Ivan Rainfall in the United States

Rest of the United States

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 in an area that was heavily flood damaged just a week and a half before from the remnants of Hurricane Frances, 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, and landslides were common across the mountains. As a result of the rain, a major debris flow of mud, rocks, trees, and water surged down Peek's Creek, near Franklin, North Carolina, sweeping away 15 houses and killing five people.

The system also spawned deadly tornadoes as far north as Maryland and destroyed seven oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico while at sea. While crossing over the Mid-Atlantic states, Ivan's remnants spawned 117 tornadoes across the eastern United States, with the 40 tornadoes spawned in Virginia on September 17 setting a daily record for the commonwealth. Ivan then moved into the Wheeling, West Virginia and Pittsburgh area, causing major flooding. Pittsburgh International Airport recorded the highest 24-hour rainfall for Pittsburgh, recording 5.95 inches (151 mm) of rain. Ivan's rain caused widespread flooding. The Juniata River basin was flooded, and the Frankstown Branch crested at its highest level ever. After Ivan regenerated in the Gulf of Mexico, it caused further heavy rainfall up to 8 inches (200 mm) in areas of Louisiana and Texas.


On the morning of September 21, the remnant mid-level circulation of Ivan combined with a frontal system. This produced a plume of moisture over the Canadian Maritimes for four days, producing heavy rainfall totaling 6.2 inches (160 mm) in Gander, Newfoundland. High winds of up to 89 mph (143 km/h) downed trees and caused power outages in Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and eastern Nova Scotia. The system produced intense waves of up to 50 feet (15 m) near Cape Bonavista. The system killed two when it grounded a fishing vessel and was indirectly responsible for four traffic fatalities in Newfoundland.



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 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 help seek a cooperative restructuring agreement with creditors.

More than US$150 million was sent to Grenada in 2004 to aid reconstruction following Ivan, but the economic situation remains fragile. The International Monetary Fund 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."

United States

Ivan is 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.


This storm also marked the third occasion the name "Ivan" had been used to name a tropical cyclone in the Atlantic, as well as the fourth of five occurrences worldwide. The name Ivan was retired in the spring of 2005 by the World Meteorological Organization and will never again be used in the Atlantic basin. It was replaced by Igor for the 2010 season.

Hydrological records

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 ft (40 m), and the fastest seafloor current, at 2.25  m/s (5 mph).

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