Hurricane Ivan was the ninth named storm, sixth hurricane, and fourth major hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. Ivan formed on September 2 well to the southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. Ivan was a Cape Verde hurricane, and moved westward, passed through the Windward Islands as a Category 3 hurricane, then moved west-northwestward, then northwestward before making a very close approach to the island of Jamaica. Ivan then moved west-northwest again, before gradually turning to the north and striking the United States near Gulf Shores, Alabama on September with winds of 120 mph, Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Ivan then moved northeast across the eastern United States, and its remnants made a large anticyclonic loop across the Atlantic Ocean, moved westward across extreme South Florida, emerged into the Gulf of Mexico, and then finally regenerated into a tropical cyclone again on the evening of September 22. Ivan moved west-northwest and made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana as a tropical depression. Ivan finally dissipated on September 24 over Texas. Ivan is also only one of three Atlantic hurricanes to reach Category 5 status on three separate occasions, the others being Hurricane Isabel of 2003, and Hurricane Allen of 1980. In addition, Ivan has the second highest Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index of any tropical cyclone in the Atlantic basin, behind only the 1899 Hurricane San Ciriaco.

Ivan caused $19.2 billion (2004 USD) in damage and caused 124 fatalities; 92 direct, 32 indirect.

Ivan as a Category 5 hurricane
FormationSeptember 2, 2004
Dissipation September 24, 2004
Highest winds 165 mph
Lowest pressure 910 mbar
Deaths 92 direct, 32 indirect
Damages $19.2 billion (2004 USD)
Areas affectedWindward 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

Meteorological history


Ivan's origins are from a large tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa on August 31. Although the wave was accompanied by a surface low as well as an impressive upper-level outflow pattern, the convection was limited and disorganized. However, by early on September 1, convective bands began to develop around the wave, with Dvorak classifications being initiated on the wave later that day. Due to favorable upper-level outflow as well as low vertical wind shear, the wave was able to develop deep convection close to the center, and the convection was also allowed to persist because of these favorable factors. At around 1800 UTC September 2, is estimated that the wave developed into Tropical Depression Nine in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean well east of the Windward Islands. In spite of the wave being a low latitude of around 9.7°N upon forming, the wave continued to organize, and it is estimated that the wave strengthened into Tropical Storm Ivan at 0600 UTC September 3. Ivan continued on a generally westward heading south of 10°N, and the cyclone steadily intensified as it did so. At 0600 UTC September 5, Ivan attained hurricane status while located about 1000 miles east of Tobago in the southern Windward Islands. After reaching hurricane status, Ivan began to undergo rapid intensification, which took place for 18 hours. Satellite suggest that the cyclone's winds increased a total of 50 knots while the central pressure decreased a remarkable 39 mb during that time, and at 0000 UTC September 6, Ivan reached its first peak intensity of 135 mph, low-end Category 4 status. With this, Ivan became the southernmost major hurricane on record in the Atlantic.


Satellite image of Ivan as a Category 3 hurricane east of the Windward
Islands on September 5.

However, nearly as quickly as it strengthened, Ivan weakened, with its winds decreasing 20 kt over the following 24 hours. Conventional as well as microwave satellite imagery indicated that the likely cause for Ivan's rapid weakening was due to mid-level dry air that became entrained into the circulation center and eroded the convection in the eyewall. Immediately following the 24 hour weakening period, Ivan began another round of strengthening that included a 12 hour period of rapid intensification. During this time, Ivan was examined by U.S. Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft as the cyclone approached the southern Windward Islands. According to the aircraft crew, Ivan re-strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane as the center passed about 6 miles south-southwest of the island in Grenada. At the time, Ivan's eye was about 10 nautical miles in diameter, and the strongest winds of the storm raked the southern portion of Grenada. After passing Grenada and moving into the southeastern Carribean Sea, Ivan's intensity leveled off until 1800 UTC September 8, at which point another brief period of rapid intensification took place. Reports from a reconnaissance aircraft indicated that Ivan reached its secondary peak of 160 mph, Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, just 12 hours later. This would be the first of three separate occasions that Ivan would reach Category 5 intensity, and the only other Atlantic hurricanes on record to accomplish this feat are Hurricane Allen of 1980 and Hurricane Isabel of 2003.

Ivan's previous west-northwest movement at a speed of 14 to 15 kt gradually decreased as Ivan moved across the central Carribean Sea towards the island of Jamaica. Although a large subtropical ridge to the north remained intact, Ivan's foward speed decreased to less than 10 knots on September 11 due to a weakening of the steering currents. During this time, Ivan took a turn to the west, which brought the center of the hurricane at least 20 miles south of the island of Jamaica, and thus sparing it a landfall. As Ivan passed south of Jamaica, it weakened back to a Category 4 hurricane, partially due to an eyewall replacement cycle. The combination of the weakening and the westward turn kept Ivan's strongest winds offshore Jamaica. Later that day, Ivan began to move west-northwest again away from Jamaica, and Ivan attained Category 5 status a second time at 1800 UTC September 11, reaching its third peak intensity due to a low vertical wind shear environment.


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

During the time of attaining Category 5 status a second time, Ivan's maximum winds increased to 165 mph. However, Ivan only maintained its peak intensity of 165 mph as well as Category 5 status as a whole for only six hours before weakening back to a Category 4 on September 12. The weakening trend was short-lived, however, and Ivan attained Category 5 status for the third and final time while located about 80 miles west of Grand Cayman. Although the cyclone was weakening when it passed to the south of Grand Cayman on September 12, Ivan still produced sustained winds just below Category 5 strength on the island, which produced widespread and significant wind damage, as well as a storm surge that completely inundated every portion of the island except the extreme northeastern portion. On September 13, Ivan approached a weakness in the subtropical ridge over the central Gulf of Mexico and turned to the northwest at a slower foward speed of 8 to 10 kt. As the hurricane moved over the northwestern Carribean Sea, the combination of well-established upper-level outflow that was being enhanced by the south-southwesterly flow ahead of an approaching trough as well as the very warm water temperatures in the region probably enabled Ivan to attain Category 5 status for an unusually long 30 hours. Once again, the major land areas were spared the full brunt of Ivan as the 20 mile wide eye and the strongest winds passed through the Yucatan Channel just offshore the extreme western tip of Cuba. Hurricane force winds were reported across portions of western Cuba, but the effects were far less in Cuba than they were in Grenada, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman when Ivan passed through those islands.

Early on September 14, Ivan emerged into the Gulf of Mexico. Shortly thereafter, Ivan turned to the north-northwest, and then to the north. A steady weakening trend also took place during this time, as moderate southwesterly wind shear on the east side of a large mid- to upper-level trough over the central United States and northeastern Mexico gradually increased the vertical shearing over Ivan. As Ivan neared the Gulf Coast of the United States, the upper-level wind flow ahead of the trough became more westerly and the shear increased to more than 30 kt over Ivan. Not only did the shear help weaken Ivan, but it helped advect dry air into Ivan's inner core. In spite of the unfavorable environmental conditions, cooler shelf waters near the coast, as well as eyewall replacement cycles, Ivan only slowly weakened and it made landfall as a 125 mph Category 3 hurricane at approximately 0650 UTC September 16, just west of Gulf Shores, Alabama. By this time, the eye had increased substantially, to 40 to 50 miles in diameter. This resulted in some of the strongest winds occuring over a narrow area near the southern Alabama/western Florida Panhandle border.


Radar image of Ivan at landfall in extreme eastern Alabama.

After Ivan moved across the barrier islands of Alabama, it turned north-northeastward across eastern Mobile Bay, and it weakened to a tropical storm 12 hours later over central Alabama. Shortly thereafter, Ivan took a gradual turn to the northeast, and quickly weakened to a tropical depression by 0000 UTC September 17 over northeastern Alabama. For the next 36 hours, Ivan moved northeastward at speeds of 10 to 14 knots before merging with a frontal zone and transitioning into an extratropical low over the Delmarva Peninsula around 1800 UTC September 18. However, even as a weak tropical depression, Ivan was able to produce very heavy rains which triggered flash flooding, and it was also able to produce tornadoes across much of the southeastern United States.

Even as an extratropical cyclone, the remnants of Ivan were identifiable by both surface observations and upper-air data. Over the next 3 days, Ivan's remnant low moved south and southwestward and eventually crossed the southern Florida Peninsula from the Atlantic on the morning of September 21, and Ivan's remnants emerged into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico later that afternoon. As Ivan moved west across the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the low began to re-acquire a warm core as well as other tropical characteristics as convection started to develop near the well-defined low-level circulation center. On the morning of September 22, Ivan completed a large anticyclonic loop. By 1800 UTC that same day, reports from reconnaissance aircraft indicated that Ivan had strengthened into a tropical depression again over the central Gulf of Mexico. Six hours later, Ivan regained tropical storm status while located about 120 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Ivan continued northwest while gradually weakening due to strong vertical wind shear, and it made landfall at around 0200 UTC September 24 in extreme southwestern Louisiana near Cameron as a tropical depression. After landfall, Ivan quickly dissipated that morning over the upper Texas coastal area about 20 miles northwest of Beaumont. Including its extratropical phase, Ivan existed for 22.5 days and produced a track more than 5600 n mi long.


Ivan set several new records for intensities at low latitudes. When Ivan became a Category 3 on September 5, it was located at 10.2°N, which is the most southerly location on record for a major hurricane in the Atlantic basin. Just six hours after becoming a Category 3 hurricane, Ivan became a Category 4 hurricane. This made Ivan the most southerly Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic basin, as it reached that intensity at 10.6°N. Finally, at midnight on September 9, Ivan, while located at 13.7°N, strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane. Hurricane Felix in 2007 nearly matched this record by becoming a Category 5 hurricane at 13.8°N.

In addition to the above records, Ivan had the world record of 33 (32 consecutive) six hour periods with an intensity at or above Category 4 status. Two years later, this record was broken by Hurricane Ioke in 2006, which had 36 (33 consecutive) six hour periods at Category 4 or higher strength. This contributed to Ivan's ACE of 69.9, 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.


Carribean Sea

On the island of Jamaica, a total of 500,000 people were ordered to evacuate from coastal areas because of the threat from Hurricane Ivan, although only 5,000 were reported to have moved to shelters. Also, many schools as well as businesses were closed in the Netherlands Antilles, and about 300 people were evacuated from their homes in Curaçao. Also, 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. Also, about 1,000 special needs patients were housed at the Louisiana Superdome during the storm. Ivan was considered a significant threat to New Orleans due to the dangers of catastrophic flooding. Although Ivan did not impact New Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes experienced a moderate amount of wind damage from the hurricane. Hurricane preparedness for New Orleans was judged poor. At one point, the media indicated that New Orleans could become a modern day Atlantis if Ivan were to make a direct hit on the city. Because Ivan made landfall further east, this fear was not realized. The publicity generated could have contributed to the somewhat more effective evacuation of the city in preparation for Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Mississippi and Alabama

In Mississippi, the evacuation of mobile homes as well as vulnerable areas was ordered in Hancock, Jackson, and Harrison Counties. In Alabama, the evacuation in the areas of Mobile and Baldwin Counties south of Interstate 10 was ordered, which included a third of the incorporated territory of the city of Mobile, as well as several of its suburbs. Ivan also 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, because only 28 volunteers were available to move the animals.


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


Ivan killed a total of 64 people in the Carribean Sea, mainly in Grenada and Jamaica. Ivan killed 3 in Venezeula, and 25 in the United States, which included 14 in Florida alone. In addition, 32 more deaths were indirectly caused by Hurricane Ivan. Tornadoes spawned by Ivan struck communities located along the concentric arcs on the leading of the storm. In Florida, Blountstown, Marianna, and Panama City Beach suffered three of the most devastating tornadoes. A Panama City news station almost got struck by an F2 Tornado spawned by the cyclone. Ivan caused over $13,000,000,000 (2004 USD) in damage in the United States, as well as $3,000,000,000 (2004 USD) in the Carribean Sea.

Southeastern Carribean Sea and Venezeula

Ivan passed approximately 6 miles south-southwest of the island of Grenada on September 7, killing 39 people. The capital city of St George's, experienced significant damage from the hurricane, with several notable buildings being destroyed by the cyclone, including the residence of the prime minister. In addition, Ivan caused extensive damage to a local prison on the island, which allowed most of the inmates to escape. In the words of a Carribean disaster official, the island experienced "total devastation" from Hurricane Ivan. According to a member of the Grenadian parliament, at least 85% of the island was devastated by Ivan. In addition, extensive flooding was reported on the island. Total damage on the island was $815,000,000 (2004 USD).

Elsewhere in the Carribean, Ivan killed a pregnant woman in Tobago when a tree fell on her home. In addition, a 75 year old woman was killed in Barbados via drowning. Ivan killed three people in Venezeula. Over 150 homes on the island of Barbados and around 60 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines were damaged by the hurricane.


Aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in Grenada.


Ivan's center passed near the island of Jamaica on September 11 and 12. Ivan caused significant damage to the island as a result of the close passage, although the strongest winds remained just offshore due to the cyclone's unexpected brief westward turn. Looters were reported roaming the streets of the capital city of the island, Kingston (which appeared deserted), robbing emergency workers at gunpoint. A total of 17 people were killed on the island, and a total of 18,000 residents were left homeless by Hurricane Ivan. Most of the major roads and hotels on the island fared well, however, and reopened only a few days after Ivan passed. Total damage in Jamaica from Ivan reached $360,000,000 (2004 USD).

Cayman Islands

In the Cayman Islands, Governor Bruce Dinwiddy described the damage done by Ivan as "very, very severe and widespread". A quarter or more of the buildings on the islands were reported to be uninhabitable, with 85% of buildings damaged to some extent. Much of Grand Cayman still remained without electricity, water, or sewer services several months after the hurricane came through. After five months, barely half the pre-Ivan hotel rooms were useable. Despite the damage to the Cayman Islands, Ivan only killed two people on the islands, although initially, many deaths were suspected due to the many graves that washed up during the storm. Total damage in the Cayman Islands from Ivan reached $1.85,000,000,000 (2004 USD).

Damage in the Cayman Islands from Hurricane Ivan.

Rest of the Carribean Sea

Ivan killed four people in the Dominican Republic. The region's Carribean Development Bank estimates that Ivan caused over $3,000,000,000 (2004 USD) in damage to the Carribean Sea, mostly in Grenada, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands. Minor damage, including some beach erosion was reported on the ABC Islands. Although Ivan did not make landfall in Cuba, its storm surge produced localized flooding on Santiago de Cuba and Granma, on the southern part of the island. In Cienfuegos, Ivan produced waves as high as 15 feet. In addition, Pinar del Rio received 13.3 inches of rain from Ivan. Although Ivan caused no fatalities in Cuba, the Cuban government estimates that it caused about $1.2,000,000,000 (2004 USD) in damage to the island.

United States

Along with the 14 deaths in Florida, Ivan is blamed for 8 deaths in North Carolina, 2 in Georgia, and 1 in Mississippi. In addition, Ivan is reported to have caused 32 indirect deaths. Ivan caused an estimated $13,000,000,000 (2004 USD) in damage to the United States, which made it, at the time, the third costliest hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin, being very near the $14,000,000,000 (2004 USD) in damage caused by Hurricane Charley, but well below the $26,000,000,000 (1992 USD) caused by Hurricane Andrew. Ivan displaced Hurricane Hugo, which had previously been the third costliest hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina caused $81,000,000,000 (2005 USD) in damage, Ivan dropped to fourth place. Finally, when Hurricane Wilma in that same year caused $20,000,000,000 (2005 USD) in damage, Ivan was dropped further to fifth place.


In Florida, Ivan caused significant damage at 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 city of Warrington, (which includes Pensacola NAS), Perdido Key, and southwestern Escambia County, experienced the brunt of Hurricane Ivan. Some subdivisions in the area were completely destroyed by the hurricane, with a few key roads in the Perdido Key area only opened in late 2005, over a year after the storm hit. Shattered windows from strong wind gusts and flying debris experienced the night that Ivan hit were common. As of December 2007, roads remained closed on Pensacola Beach due to damage from Ivan's storm surge. In Pensacola, the Interstate 10 bridge across Escambia Bay was significantly damaged, with as much as a 0.25 mile wide section of the bridge collapsing into the bay.


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

Also, the causeway that carries U.S. Highway 90 across the northern part of the same bay also experienced significant damage from Hurricane Ivan. Virtually all of Perdido Key was destroyed by the hurricane. Also, high surf and strong winds brought extensive damage to Innerarity Point. On September 26, 2006, two years after Ivan struck, funding for the last 501 FEMA-provided trailers ran out for those living in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties.


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


The city of Demopolis, located over 100 miles inland in west-central Alabama, experienced wind gusts of 90 mph, while the city of Montgomery experienced wind gusts around 60 to 70 mph during the height of the storm. Along the coast, the heaviest damage in Alabama, and the entire United States, was experienced in Baldwin County, where Ivan made landfall. High surf as well as strong winds caused significant damage to Orange Beach near the Florida border. There, two five-story condominiums were undermined to the point of collapse by Ivan's 14 foot storm surge. Both condos were made of steel-reinforced concrete. Also, debris gathered in piles of along the storm surge, which exaserbated the damage when floodwaters crashed into homes sitting on pilings. The city of Brewton, a community located about 50 miles inland, suffered significant damage from Hurricane Ivan. In addition to the damage in the southern portion of the state, Ivan caused extensive damage to the state's electrical grid. At the height of the power outages, Alabama Power reported that 489,000 customers had lost electricity due to the hurricane - roughly half of their subscriber base.

Rest of the United States

Further inland, Ivan produced 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 the western portion of North Carolina, Ivan caused many streams and rivers to crest well above their flood stages, in an area that was already flooded just a week and a half before by the remnants of Hurricane Frances. The flooding caused 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. To the heavy rains, a major debris flow of mud, rocks, trees, and water surged down Peek's Creek, near the city of Franklin. The debris flow swept away 15 houses and killed five people.

Ivan spawned tornadoes as far north as Maryland, and destroyed 7 oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico while at sea. While crossing over the Mid-Atlantic States, Ivan's remnants spawned a total of 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 total for the city of Pittsburgh, reaching 5.95 inches. Ivan's heavy rain caused widespread flooding. The Juniata River basin was flooded, and the Frankstown Branch crested at its highest level in history.

After Ivan regenerated in the western Gulf of Mexico, it caused heavy rainfall of up to 8 inches across portions of Louisiana and Texas.


On the morning of September 21, the remnant mid-level circulation of Ivan merged with a frontal zone. This system produced a plume of moisture over the Canadian Maritimes for four days, producing heavy rainfall totaling to 6.2 inches at Gander, Newfoundland. Winds as high as 89 mph downed trees and produced power outages in Newfoundland, Prince Edward Islands, as well as eastern Nova Scotia. Ivan's remnants produced very high waves, in excess of 50 feet near Cape Bonavista. The system killed two people when it grounded a fishing vessel, and it was indirectly reponsible for four traffic fatalities in Newfoundland.


Rainfall totals from Hurricane Ivan.


Because of the significant damage caused by the storm, the name Ivan was retired in the Spring of 2005 by the World Meteorological Organization. It was replaced with Igor for the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season.

See Also

2004 Atlantic hurricane season=


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