On this Day: Hurricanes Sally and Ivan make landfall along Alabama coast 16 years apart


FILE -In a Thursday, Sept. 16, 2004 file photo, buildings destroyed by Hurricane Ivan are seen in Orange Beach, Ala. It has been five years since Ivan slammed into Gulf Shores, leveling hundreds of buildings on the coast of Alabama and northwest Florida, killing 25 people in the two states and causing more than $14 billion in damage. Yet for many outside the battered region, Ivan is the storm that’s hard to place. (AP Photo/Joe Cavaretta, File)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Thursday marks the anniversary, albeit 16 years apart, when both Hurricane Sally and Hurricane Ivan made landfall along the Gulf Coast, leaving their mark along the Alabama coastline that remains today.

Ivan, while peaking at a Category 5 hurricane, made landfall as a strong Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 120 miles per hour. On September 16, 2004, the eye of Hurricane Ivan moved over Gulf Shores at 2 a.m., ripping through the beach community, leveling homes that had stood for decades, sinking boats, and pushing 14 feet of water inland. In Alabama alone, Ivan caused over $18 billion in damage.

Amazingly, no Alabamians died during Ivan, although the storm is to blame for over 100 deaths in Grenada, Jamaica and Florida. Because of the large scope of Ivan’s devastation, the World Meteorological Organization retired the name and replaced it with “Igor.”

Ivan was a notable and record-setting storm as well. On September 3, 2004, it started as a Cape Verde wave and became a Tropical Storm, strengthening to a hurricane two days later. Ivan became the first hurricane of its strength to form so far south latitudinally and held the world record of the number of consecutive six-hour periods of an intensity at or above Category 4 strength. This record was broken in 2006 by a Pacific basin storm.

On September 16, 2020, Hurricane Sally moved onshore in Gulf Shores at 5:45 a.m. as a Category 2 hurricane. This slow-moving storm with peak sustained winds at 110 miles per hour caused extensive flooding, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without electricity. Interestingly, Sally was the only hurricane to make landfall on the Alabama coast since Ivan and caused $300 million in damage to the state. The 2020 hurricane season had 30 named storms with Laura, Eta, and Iota being retired, leaving Sally as the most damaging Atlantic basin storm whose name was not retired.

Today, we are tracking the remnants of Nicholas and three other areas of interest in the Atlantic, but there are no other active storms in the Gulf of Mexico. We are currently in what is known as the climatological peak of hurricane season, with tropical activity generally lessening into October.

The hurricane season will end Nov. 30.

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