Hurricane Ivan – 2004

If hurricanes had a motto, Ivan’s would have been ‘boom-bang-a-bang’. For Hurricane Ivan was in the top ten most intense Atlantic hurricanes, reaching the maximum Category Five on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, growing to the size of Texas over the Gulf of Mexico, huffing and puffing at up to 275 kph (170 mph) and giving rise to around 120 individual tornadoes after arriving in the eastern USA.

The fourth major hurricane of the 2004 season was seriously scary. Ivan was born as a tropical depression near the Cape Verde Islands off the African coast. He raced across the Atlantic, became Tropical Storm Ivan along the way before maturing into Hurricane Ivan at ominously low latitude never before recorded for a full-blown hurricane. This was a harbinger of destructive intentions.

Ivan devastated Caribbean islands including Grenada (the hardest hit, with catastrophic damage that virtually wiped out the entire economy), Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Cuba, Barbados, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago. Venezuela and the Dominican Republic were also severely battered. Ivan’s strength peaked over the Gulf of Mexico, where seven oil platforms were swept away. He reduced to a Category Three storm before reaching the USA at Gulf Shores, Alabama, along with a 4.3 m (14 ft) storm surge. Even in his weakened state, Ivan was still powerful enough to inflict widespread damage costing billions of dollars.

Prime targets were Florida, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina. But heavy rain and high winds were experienced right up the eastern seaboard to Canada, while destructive tornadoes were recorded as far north as Maryland. High winds and extensive flooding did most of the damage to buildings and infrastructure, while thousands of boats were sunk or cast ashore. Awesome Ivan killed nearly 100 people, and claimed over 30 indirect victims.

When: September 2-24 2004

Where: Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and USA

Death toll: 92 died, mainly in Grenada (39), the USA (25) and Jamaica (17).

You should know: North America’s soybean (soya bean) crop had a narrow escape. Hurricane Ivan carried spores of soybean rust into the United States from South America. This virulent disease had never before broken out in the USA, despite regularly ruining soybean crops in South America. Luckily, most of the harvest had been gathered in so the soybean rust was contained with minimal economic damage to this important crop.

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