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Hurricane Ivan was the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. 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. At its peak in the Gulf of Mexicomarker, Ivan was the size of the state of Texasmarker. It also spawned 117 tornadoes across the eastern United States.

Ivan caused catastrophic damage to Grenadamarker and heavy damage to Jamaicamarker, Grand Caymanmarker, and the western tip of Cubamarker. After peaking in strength, the hurricane moved north-northwest across the Gulf of Mexico to strike Gulf Shores, Alabamamarker 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 into a tropical cyclone, which then moved across Floridamarker and the Gulf of Mexico into Louisianamarker and Texasmarker, causing minimal damage. Ivan caused an estimated US$13 billion (2004 USD) in damages to the United States, making it the sixth costliest hurricane ever to strike that country.

Meteorological history

On September 2, 2004, Tropical Depression Nine formed from a large tropical wave southwest of Cape Verdemarker. As the system moved to the west, it strengthened gradually, becoming Tropical Storm Ivan on September 3 and reaching hurricane strength on September 5, to the east of Tobagomarker. Later that day, the storm intensified rapidly, and by 5 p.m. EDT (2100 UTC), Ivan became a Category 3 hurricane with winds of . The National Hurricane Center said that the rapid strengthening of Ivan on September 5 was unprecedented at such a low latitude in the Atlantic basinmarker.

As it moved west, Ivan weakened slightly because of vertical wind shear in the area. The storm passed over Grenadamarker on September 7, battering several of the Windward Islands as it entered the Caribbean Seamarker. Ivan reintensified rapidly and became a Category 5 hurricane just north of the Windward Netherlands Antillesmarker (Curacaomarker and Bonairemarker) and Arubamarker on September 9 with winds reaching . Ivan weakened slightly as it moved west-northwest towards Jamaicamarker. 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, because of its proximity to the Jamaican coast, the island was battered with hurricane-force winds for hours.

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 as it passed within of Grand Caymanmarker. 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 Channelmarker late on September 13 while its eyewall affected the westernmost tip of Cubamarker. Once over the Gulf of Mexicomarker, it weakened slightly to Category 4 strength, which it maintained while approaching the Gulf Coast of the United States.

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, Alabamamarker as a Category 3 hurricane with winds; some hurricane information sources put the winds from Hurricane Ivan near upon landfall in Alabama and northwestern Florida. Ivan then continued inland, maintaining hurricane strength until it was over central Alabamamarker. 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 Virginiamarker. 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 reorganized and again 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, Louisianamarker as a tropical depression. Ivan finally dissipated on September 24 as it moved overland into Texasmarker.


Ivan set several new records for intensity at low latitudes. When Ivan first became a Category 3 hurricane on September 3 (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 contributed 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 Centermarker, Mississippimarker have used a computer model to predict that, at the height of the storm, the maximum wave height within Ivan's eyewall reached .


In the Caribbean, 500,000 Jamaicansmarker 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 Antillesmarker, and about 300 people evacuated their homes on Curaçaomarker. 12,000 residents and tourists were evacuated from Isla Mujeresmarker off the Yucatán Peninsulamarker.

In Louisianamarker, mandatory evacuations of vulnerable areas in Jefferson, Lafourchemarker, Plaqueminesmarker, St. Charlesmarker, St. Jamesmarker, St. John the Baptistmarker, and Tangipahoamarker 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 Orleansmarker 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 Superdomemarker 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 Mississippimarker, evacuation of mobile homes and vulnerable areas took place in Hancockmarker, Jacksonmarker, and Harrisonmarker counties. In Alabamamarker, evacuation in the areas of Mobilemarker and Baldwinmarker 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 Keysmarker 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 Escambiamarker, Santa Rosamarker, and Okaloosamarker.

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 and damage by country
Country Total



Barbadosmarker 1 1 $5 million
Cayman Islandsmarker 2 1 $3.5 billion
Cubamarker 0 0 $1.2 billion
Dominican Republicmarker 4 4 Unknown
Grenadamarker 39 39 $1.1 billion
Jamaicamarker 17 17 $360 million
St. Luciamarker 0 0 $2.6 million
Saint Vincent and the Grenadinesmarker 0 0 $40 million
Trinidad and Tobagomarker 1 1 $4.9 million
United States 54 25 $13 billion
Venezuelamarker 3 3 unknown
Totals: 121 92 ~$18.092 billion

Ivan killed 64 people in the Caribbean—mainly in Grenadamarker and Jamaicamarker—three in Venezuelamarker, and 25 in the United States, including fourteen in Floridamarker. 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, Blountstownmarker, Mariannamarker, and Panama City Beachmarker 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

Ivan passed directly over Grenadamarker on September 7, 2004, killing 39 people. The capital, St. George'smarker, 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 Tobagomarker when a tree fell on top of her home, and a 75-year-old Canadian woman drowned in Barbadosmarker. Three deaths were reported in Venezuelamarker. Over one-hundred fifty homes on Barbados and around 60 homes in St. Vincent and the Grenadinesmarker were also reportedly damaged.


On September 11 and September 12, the center of Ivan passed near Jamaicamarker, causing significant wind and flood damage. Looters were reported roaming the streets of Jamaica's capital city, Kingstonmarker (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

the Cayman Islandsmarker, Governor Bruce Dinwiddy described damage as "very, very severe and widespread." Despite strict building codes which made the islands' buildings well able to withstand even major hurricanes, Ivan's winds and storm surge were so strong that a quarter or more of the buildings on the islands were reported to be uninhabitable, with 85% damaged to some extent. Much of Grand Caymanmarker 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 because of 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 Republicmarker. The region's Caribbean Development Bank estimates Ivan caused over US$3 billion (2004 USD) damage on island nations, mostly in the Cayman Islandsmarker, Grenadamarker, and Jamaicamarker. Minor damage, including some beach erosion, was reported in the ABC islandsmarker.

Even though Ivan did not make landfall on Cubanmarker soil, its storm surge caused localized flooding on Santiago de Cubamarker and Granma, on the southern part of the island. At Cienfuegosmarker, the storm produced waves of , and Pinar del Ríomarker recorded 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

Along with the 14 deaths in Floridamarker, Ivan is blamed for eight deaths in North Carolinamarker, two in Georgiamarker, and one in Mississippimarker. 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, but in 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused US$81 billion in damage, displacing Ivan to fourth place, and Hurricane Wilma caused US$20.6 billion in damage, displacing Ivan again to fifth place, and in 2008, Ivan was surpassed by another storm, Hurricane Ike which caused upwards of $27 billion in damages.


In Florida there was heavy damage as Ivan made landfall on the U.S. coastline was observed in Pensacolamarker, Pensacola Beach, dwellings situated far inland, as much as 20 miles from the Gulf coast, along the shorelines of Escambia Bay, East Baymarker, Blackwater Bay, and Ward Basin in Escambia Countymarker and Santa Rosa County, and Fort Walton Beach, Floridamarker on the eastern side of the storm. The area just west of Pensacola, including the community of Warringtonmarker (which includes Pensacola NASmarker), Perdido Keymarker, and Innerarity Point, 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 because of damage from Ivan's storm surge.

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.

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 Demopolismarker, over inland in west-central Alabamamarker, endured wind gusts estimated at , while Montgomerymarker saw wind gusts in the to range at the height of the storm.

The heaviest damage as Ivan made landfall on the U.S. coastline was observed in Baldwin Countymarker in Alabama, where the storm's eye (and eyewall) made landfall. High surf and wind brought extensive damage to Orange Beachmarker near the border with Florida. There, two five-story condominium buildings were undermined to the point of collapse by Ivan's storm surge of . 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. Brewtonmarker, a community about 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

Rest of the United States

Further inland, Ivan caused major flooding, bringing the Chattahoochee River near Atlantamarker 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. Locations in southern New Hampshiremarker and Massachusettsmarker received over 7 inches of rainfall from the remnants of Ivan, causing flooding and mudslides.

In Western North Carolinamarker, 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 Parkwaymarker as well as Interstate 40 through the Pigeon River gorge in Haywood County, North Carolinamarker, 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 Carolinamarker, sweeping away 15 houses and killing five people.

The system also spawned deadly tornadoes as far north as Marylandmarker and destroyed seven oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexicomarker 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 Virginiamarker on September 17 setting a daily record for the commonwealth. Ivan then moved into the Wheeling, West Virginiamarker and Pittsburghmarker area, causing major flooding. Pittsburgh International Airportmarker recorded the highest 24-hour rainfall for Pittsburgh, recording 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 in areas of Louisianamarker and Texasmarker.


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 in Gander, Newfoundlandmarker. High winds of up to downed trees and caused power outages in Newfoundlandmarker, Prince Edward Islandmarker, and eastern Nova Scotiamarker. The system produced intense waves of up to near Cape Bonavistamarker. The system killed two when it grounded a fishing vessel and was indirectly responsible for four traffic fatalities in Newfoundland.



Grenadamarker 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, , 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 Fundmarker 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 Venezuelamarker 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. Because of the severe damage and deaths in the Caribbean and United States, the name Ivan was retired in the spring of 2005 by the World Meteorological Organization and will never again be used in the Atlantic basinmarker. 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).

See also


  1. Stacey R. Stewart. Tropical Cyclone Report for Hurricane Ivan. Retrieved on 2008-02-01.
  2. National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Ivan Discussion 14. Retrieved on 2008-02-01.
  3. National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Ivan Discussion 17. Retrieved on 2008-02-01.
  4. National Hurricane Center's Tropical Depression IVAN Special Discussion Number 67, September 22 2004
  5. National Hurricane Center. Atlantic Hurricane Track Database. Retrieved on 2008-02-01.
  6. National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Felix Tropical Cyclone Report. Retrieved on 2008-02-01.
  7. National Climatic Data Center. Climate of 2004: Atlantic Hurricane Season. Retrieved on 2008-02-01
  8. U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. NRL Measures Record Wave During Hurricane Ivan. Retrieved on 2008-02-01.
  9. Natural Hazards Observer (November 2004). What if Hurricane Ivan Had Not Missed New Orleans? Retrieved on 2008-02-03.
  10. USA Today. Direct hit by Ivan in New Orleans could mean a modern Atlantis. Retrieved on 2004-09-14.
  11. CNN. Ivan's stormy trek floods Southeast. Retrieved on 2004-09-16.
  12. Video of the tornado
  13. Associated Press. Cuba mostly spared Ivan's wrath. Retrieved on 2004-09-15.
  14. United States Department of State. U.S. Gives Jamaica $450,000 for School Equipment and Supplies. Retrieved on 2005-02-16.
  15. Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency. News Conference Report: Tourism impact on the Caribbean by Hurricanes Frances, Ivan, Jeanne. Retrieved on 2004-09-30.
  16. Franklin Hayes. Elderly Left Homeless by FEMA Deadline. Retrieved on 2008-02-03.
  17. National Weather Service Forecast Office, Birmingham, Alabama. Hurricane Ivan...September 2004. Retrieved on 2008-02-03.
  18. Timothy P. Marshall. Hurricane Ivan Damage Survey. Retrieved on 2008-02-01.
  19. Dnet Web Services. Peeks Creek Photos. Retrieved on 2008-02-01.
  20. North Carolina Geological Survey. Landslides. Retrieved on 2008-02-01.
  21. The Washington Times. Maryland women die in Ivan's wake. Retrieved 2004-09-19.
  22. Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Virginia's Weather History: Virginia Tornadoes. Retrieved on 2008-02-03.
  23. National Weather Service Forecast Office, Pittsburgh, PA. NWS Pittsburgh Hourly Climate Data Archive, August, 2004. Retrieved on 2008-02-01.
  24. Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. Ivan Flooding Situation Reports: September 28, 2004, Situation Report #15. Retrieved on 2008-02-01.
  25. United States Department of State. Grenada Making Comeback from Hurricane Ivan. Retrieved on 2005-02-24.
  26. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Soybean Rust Confirmed In Florida. Retrieved on 2004-11-17.
  27. NOAA. The Retirement of Hurricane Names. Retrieved on 2008-02-12.
  28. National Hurricane Center. Worldwide Tropical Cyclone Names. Retrieved on 2008-02-12.

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