001: Story of Hurricane Ivan (2004) Forecasting uncertainty, business interruption, infrastructure destruction

Hurricane Ivan was the storm that just wouldn’t quit.

The forces of Ivan were directly responsible for 92 deaths – 39 in Grenada, 25 in United States, 17 in Jamaica, 4 in Dominican Republic, 3 in Venezuela, 2 in Cayman Islands, and 1 each in Tobago and Barbados. Concerning the deaths in the United States, 14 occurred in Florida, 8 in North Carolina, 2 in Georgia, and 1 in Mississippi. The breakdown of U.S. deaths by cause is as follows:

  • tornado (7),
  • storm surge (5),
  • fresh water floods (4),
  • mud slides (4),
  • wind (3), and
  • surf (2).

Ivan was also indirectly responsible for 32 deaths in the United States. Ivan caused extensive damage to coastal and inland areas of the United States. Portions of the Interstate 10 bridge system across Pensacola Bay, Florida were severely damaged in several locations as a result of severe wave action on top of the 10-15 ft storm surge. As much as a quarter-mile of the bridge collapsed into the bay. The U.S Highway 90 Causeway across the northern part of the bay was also heavily damaged.

To the south of Pensacola, Florida, Perdido Key bore the brunt of Ivan’s fury and was essentially leveled. Along the Alabama coast, high surf 6 and wind caused extensive damage to Innerarity Point and Orange Beach. In the Alabama and Florida panhandle areas, widespread over wash occurred along much of the coastal highway system. In addition, extensive beach erosion caused severe damage to or the destruction of numerous beachfront homes, as well as apartment and condominium buildings. Some buildings collapsed due to scouring of the sand from underneath the foundations caused by the inundating wave action.

Thousands of homes the three-county coastal area of Baldwin, Escambia, and Santa Rosa were damaged or destroyed. Cleanup efforts alone in Escambia County resulted in debris piles that were more than three-quarters of a mile long and 70 feet high.

In all, Ivan was the most destructive hurricane to affect this area in more than 100 years. Strong winds also spread well inland damaging homes, and downing trees and power lines. At one point, more than 1.8 million people were without power in nine states.

In addition to the damaged homes and businesses, Ivan also destroyed millions of acres of woodlands and forests. The Alabama Forestry Commission found damaged timber valued at about $610 million on 2.7 million acres. These figures include — Pine pulpwood: 7.5 million cubic feet — Hardwood pulpwood: 2.6 million cubic feet — Pine sawtimber: 351.5 million board feet — Hardwood sawtimber: 493 million board feet. In the 200,000-acre Blackwater Forest, just east of Pensacola in the western Florida panhandle, more than 1.5 million board feet of timber were downed across 185,000 acres. Ivan’s effects were not just limited to coastal and inland areas.

Offshore oil industry operations in the Gulf of Mexico were severely disrupted, and several oil drilling platforms and pipelines sustained varying degrees of damage. The normal daily flow of 475,000 barrels of oil and 1.8 billion cubic feet of natural gas, plus refining operations, were disrupted for more than 4 weeks. A total of 12 large pipelines and 6 drilling platforms sustained major damage; another 7 platforms were completely destroyed.

A total of 686,700 claims were filed and the American Insurance Services Group estimates (14 December 2004 re-survey) that insured losses in the United States from Hurricane Ivan totaled $7.11 billion, of which more than $4 billion occurred in Florida alone. Using a two-to-one ratio of insured damages yields an estimated U.S. loss of approximately $14.2 billion. In addition to the insured losses that occurred, the U.S. Naval Air Station at Pensacola, Florida sustained damage losses of $800-$900 million.

Eventually the total damage estimate was revised to $18.82 billion.

About Paula Ann Hennon