12 years ago: Ivan slammed Florida/Alabama beaches

Hurricane Ivan made landfall 12 years ago today at 1:50 AM just west of Gulf Shores, AL as a Category 3 Hurricane.  Winds were sustained at 120 mph at landfall.  There was significant damage, and some say it was worse than Opal (1995) and Frederic (1979).  Damage was estimated to be near $14 Billion. There were 8 deaths in the Western Florida Panhandle directly related to Ivan. 


Ivan was the first hurricane I covered when I moved to Baton Rouge. I was sent to Mobile to cover the storm Live for WBRZ.  My crew and I worked continuously for over 24 hours straight to bring Baton Rougians the latest information about the storm and the places they go to vacation each year.  I remember when the western eye wall moved over us.  Winds were sustained around 100 mph with higher gusts.  I could lean backwards in the wind and not fall down! It was just incredible.  

Once the storm moved to the north, we ventured out to cover the devastation.  Power was out everywhere.  As we drove down Highway 59 on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay, damage was becoming more extensive as we got into Foley and eventually Gulf Shores.  You could see the debris from the storm surge up from the coast for miles.  Condos along the beach were missing their Gulf facing walls. Homes and restaurants were missing with only slabs showing. Needless to say, this was the worst devastation I had ever seen...at that time (Of course it was much worse with Katrina in 2005). 

This storm proved that Louisiana was NOT ready for a major hurricane - especially with an evacuation plan! It took people well over 12 hours to get to Baton Rouge!  I call this hurricane a blessing in disguise since it made the local and state officials come up with a better evacuation plan ASAP!  No one would have thought that we would need that plan in less than a year for Hurricane Katrina! 

Here is a look at Ivan making landfall from the Mobile, AL NWS Doppler Radar:

The maximum storm surge along the coastlines of MS, AL and FL ranged from 10-15 feet according to the NWS Mobile. Fortunately, for downtown Mobile, the center of Ivan passed to the east of the city.  Had Ivan made landfall west of Mobile Bay, it is possible that nearly 16 to 18 feet of devastating surge would have impacted downtown! 

As you can see, we are still vulnerable for hurricanes throughout the month of September.  Don't let your guard down, and stay prepared this ENTIRE hurricane season. -Dave

(© 2016 WWL)


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