A Decade Later: Looking back on Hurricane Ivan (PHOTOS)

Savannah Chastain
Hurricane Ivan hit to the west of Okaloosa County on Sept. 16 as a Category 3 with 130 mph winds at landfall.

It has been 10 years since Hurricane Ivan swept through the Caribbean and up the Gulf Coast to reach Destin on Sept. 16, 2004, and although it wasn’t a direct hit, it definitely made its mark on this little fishing village we call home.

By the Numbers

Strength: At max, Category 5. At landfall, Category 3.

Sustained winds of 130 MPH at landfall.

Landfall: Just west of Gulf Shores, Ala., Sept. 16, 2004.

Death Toll: 25 in the United States

Damage: Estimated to be near $14.2 billion overall, the third largest on record according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Locally, Ivan cost the city of Destin $2.5 million in damages.

Time in recovery: Eventually FEMA and insurance covered $2 million of the city’s damages but it took 8 years to finally close out the case.

Residents Remember

 “The thing I think I remember most about Ivan is the anticipation of it coming and where it would hit,” said life-time Destin local Cyron Marler. “Ivan was kind of a wake up call for Destin.”

Marler told The Log that he has witnessed several hurricanes in his life on the coast, and for him, Hurricane Ivan was not the storm that shook his memory the most; that storm, he said was Hurricane Opal nine years prior.

 “Everyone remembers Opal a lot more than Ivan because Opal hit us more head on,” he said. “We had Opal and then everyone got complacent again. If Ivan had hit us directly I think we really would have had a lot of serious damage for years to come.”

Marler said that the first hurricane he remembers was Camille in 1969, with subsequent storms that jogged his memory occurring in ’75, ’85, and ’95.

“The large, major impact ones tend to come every 10 years,” said Marler, noting that on this 10-year anniversary of Ivan he is getting leery of another major storm.

“We haven’t had a problem but it’s gonna happen sooner or later,” he said. “We are overdue for one.”

Joyce Rhodes-Barrett lived on Holiday Isle during Ivan and as one of the hardest hit places in Destin, she recalls the scramble to evacuate the area, and the shock of devastation on the small peninsula.

“We were under mandatory evacuation orders but the nearest room that you could find was Jackson, Mississippi,” she said. “It was hard to talk to anybody because all of the phone lines where down, and you had to go way up north to Crestview just to go back down south.”

After almost a week of waiting to return home, Rhodes-Barrett said the damage took her by surprise.

“In our building,(Waterview Towers Yacht Club)on the first floor, all of the walls were gone and it was full of sand,” she said. “One end of the building was gone; it just took the whole end of the building off.”

Rhodes-Barrett said that she was lucky, in that her apartment was not destroyed, and said for her the hurricane was a lesson learned in things she so often took for granted.

“It’s amazing how we get so used to things being the way they are in a place like Destin where we have so much,” she said.

Rhodes-Barrett recalls waiting several weeks before being allowed to move back into her home on Holiday Isle, then upon returning having no use of the elevator, limited utilities, and being hard pressed to find gasoline and tools to repair damages.

 “You got along with the basics because you didn’t have a choice,” she said. “You lived there and you lived with shortages. You lived and learned to appreciate things more. That’s what I took from it.”

With hopes that a major hurricane will not ransack Destin again, both Marler and Rhodes-Barrett agree that the storm gave them a greater appreciation for Destin and the good things in life.

“We are lucky, but not completely lucky,” said Marler. “At least you know its coming. It’s not like earthquakes; that’s the good part of it. Luckily the damage wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be.”

“It was just months of us realizing not only how blessed we were,” said Rhodes-Barrett. “But also how many things we had that were luxuries rather than necessities.”