Surviving the Winds of Hurricane Ivan

A Real-Life Weather Storm Story by Michielle Beck

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Introduction to Ivan

Most people have seen the 'Storm Stories' segment on the Weather Channel, where people talk about what they have experienced during some devastating weather event. Hurricane Ivan, that hit the Florida Panhandle in 2004, was my storm story. For those of you that don't live in hurricane-prone areas, have you ever wondered what a hurricane is like?
If you have, I hope this storm story will help you get a feel for what being in the middle of a category three hurricane really feels like.

Like so many hurricanes seem to do, Ivan made landfall during the night. The nighttime landfall adds to the stress level, because it's dark and you can't see what's flying by the window. A lot of people would probably think that this absence of vision is a good thing, but it would be better to be able to see what's going on, so that imminent danger – like something headed for the window or the roof coming loose – could be spotted. There might not be anything that could be done about these kinds of problems at the time, but at least the people in the house could be moved to another part of the house that might be safer.

Now, I'll admit that I'm strange. I've always liked hurricanes. I think that hurricanes are exciting, since I've always been fascinated by the power that weather has.

Despite my weather interest, however, I wasn't really prepared for the devastation that Ivan would bring to so many people. The hurricanes I had been involved with before really didn't do that much damage, and I thought that Ivan would be the same. As the sky darkened and the wind picked up, I went over my hurricane supplies and made sure that I had everything that I would need.

Go to the Time-Series of Hurricane Ivan Images for a look at Ivan from space.
By the time night fell, the wind was seriously blowing, and the power and television were intermittent. I wasn't scared, but I was apprehensive, and my dogs were walking around the house, whining. They could feel the pressure dropping and hear the howling of the wind. I didn't know how to comfort the dogs, or how to comfort my daughter. Myself, my daughter, and our pets all just sat in the living room, listening to the wind slam around the house and rattle through the chimney. Even with a flashlight I couldn't see that much outside, but I braved the elements long enough to stand on the back step and let the wind hit me full force.

I could lean into the wind, and it would hold me there, but the rain was cold and hard and stung my face. It was very dark, even with the back step light on, and the rain that I could see through eyes squinted against the oncoming storm was traveling almost horizontally. It wasn't long after I went back inside that the power went out…came on….went out….came on…and finally went out for good. I would get the power back 5 days later, after sweltering in the Florida heat and humidity.

Around midnight, the wind had begun to literally shriek; it sounded like a woman screaming, and the house creaked and groaned every time a gust hit it. I began to fear for the safety of the roof, and the safety of my family. Even though the house was only 2 years old, and strong, and brick, I was worried that the brick and shingles wouldn't hold together, and that staying put might have been a bad decision.

And what about my parents, living next door in an older home? Would they be all right through the long night? I just didn't know.

Around 11pm, I made the decision that it was no longer all that safe to remain in the living room, close to the large front windows. I took my daughter and went through the bedroom and into the master bathroom, because it was the most interior room I had and therefore the safest. I didn't want to be so sequestered, because I wanted to know what was going on with the storm, but I was worried by then at the alarming way that the house was creaking and the way that it sounded like the roof was just going to leave at any minute. I thought that the roof might be preparing for liftoff, and I didn’t want to be in the middle of the living room, in a rain of flying debris, if that happened.

Go to the Time-Series of Hurricane Ivan Images for a look at Ivan from space.
I lay on a blanket on the floor between the bathtub and the sink counter, my sleeping daughter next to me, and listened to the closet door pop and creak every time the wind blew. I knew that the whole house was shifting with each gust, and I could actually feel the floor shifting slightly. The house was constructed with wood floors on concrete block pilings, with the brick exterior going all of the way to the ground. This type of construction is wonderful to access the pipes under the house, but there are vents in the brick facing, and the wind was getting into these vents and whistling under the house as well as around the eaves.

A tentative hand placed to the window in the bedroom indicated a lot of strong vibration, and I crept back to the bathroom floor.

Having struggled with anxiety my whole life, I was waiting for a full-on panic attack, but one never came. My heart rate was up, and I was breathing quickly, but there was no panic; there wasn't even really that much fear; only the awe and wonder and respect that I was feeling for what Mother Nature had brought to my neighborhood.

Usually, I love to hear the thunder and rain when there is a storm, but I did not get to enjoy either of these with Ivan. With a hurricane, there is usually very little thunder and lightning. I knew that it must be pouring down rain, but the wind was so amazingly loud that I was unable to hear the rain hitting the roof. Eventually, against all odds and out of sheer exhaustion, I fell asleep with the wind shrieking and the floor trembling beneath me. When I woke up the next day, the roof was still on the house and the wind was still howling, but it had backed off enough to feel safe in the rest of the house.

It took Ivan, which was a category 3 hurricane when it made landfall just a few short miles from my house, over 12 hours to move through, and its aftermath was amazing. Full size telephone poles and vending machines lay in the roads, which were littered with debris, roofs were gone, trees (including 2 in my own back yard) were completely snapped in half.

The wind had been so loud during the night that I had not even heard the trees fall. There were many houses and businesses that were completely gone. Less than a mile farther south, houses were washed off their foundations and flooded up to their roof lines, and the water had not yet gone back down to normal levels. I vividly remember one older lady leaning against the hood of a truck, shaking her head over and over while tears rolled down her cheeks. Everything that she owned was under water. I wanted to comfort her, but what do you say in a time like that?

The water missed my house by about 8 blocks. I was spared, and my parent's home had only sustained minor damage. I am still infinitely fascinated by weather, and I still love hurricanes, but I also respect them much more now, and I'm much more aware of the way that hurricanes can change people's lives in an instant.

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Your Citation
Oblack, Rachelle. "Surviving the Winds of Hurricane Ivan." ThoughtCo, Jun. 11, 2014, Oblack, Rachelle. (2014, June 11). Surviving the Winds of Hurricane Ivan. Retrieved from Oblack, Rachelle. "Surviving the Winds of Hurricane Ivan." ThoughtCo. (accessed October 16, 2017).