A Look Back: Signs of Ivan linger in Navarre

Dusty Ricketts
The road into Navarre Beach off the bridge was destroyed after Ivan hit on Sept. 16, 2004.

(This story was published in 2014 on the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Ivan)

In the decade since Hurricane Ivan decimated much of the local community on Sept. 16, 2004, it would appear life has returned to normal in Navarre.

But a closer look at both the mainland and the beach tells a different story.

“If you ride out there and you look hard enough, you can still see the effects the storm had even 10 years later,” said Bart Pullum, a Realtor and long-time resident.

The Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Council building, Navarre park and Navarre Beach fishing pier — all wrecked by storm surge — have been rebuilt to higher standards. Many businesses destroyed by Ivan have yet to return.

Holiday Inn on Navarre Beach, Cowboys restaurant, Goldberg’s Bagels, Barracuda’s and Trader Vick’s were damaged beyond repair and never restored.

“The businesses along 98, they weren’t just blown away, it was rising waters that impacted them,” said Gordon Goodin, who was the Santa Rosa County Commissioner representing Navarre when Ivan hit. “Nobody wants to go through that again.”

The Holiday Inn, Navarre Beach’s only hotel, was by far the largest bed tax collector in Santa Rosa County and its loss is still felt.

“It affected tourism for several years, not just a couple of months after the storm,” Pullum said. “Our tourism industry just took a beating.”

Only now, 10 years after the storm, is work finally moving forward on the development of a new hotel on the Holiday Inn site.

The way Navarre Beach accommodated tourists also changed after Hurricane Ivan.

Before the storm, the Holiday Inn and the Summer Winds condominium were the only two beach businesses that offered nightly rentals. After Ivan took out the hotel, folks still wanted nightly rentals, so rental companies across Navarre Beach began to change their policies.

One of the biggest lessons the Navarre community learned during Hurricane Ivan was about preparing for the aftermath, Goodin said.

“I think we are more self-sufficient now and Ivan was the beginning of that,” he said. “When hurricane season rolls around and people are told the first 72 (hours) are on you, I think people understand what that means.”