Thursday, September 16, 2004

Ivan: Aftermath

First, our prayers are with those who lost loved ones .. and we pray for the people in Pensacola and Escambia County, Florida. Pensacola was hit very hard by the "Beast from the East" phenomenon of Gulf hurricanes. County officials fear that the death toll will rise. Damage and destruction is widespread and is beyond anything Pensacola and Escambia County have ever experienced.

For two days all the National Hurricane Center computer models, along with reports from the U.S. Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft, showed Ivan on track to go right up Mobile Bay. Ivan changed course just a couple of hours before he made landfall. Mobile was spared from potentially catastrophic 12-16 foot storm surges.

Of course, that same shift meant a direct hit on Baldwin County. And what a hit it was. No, hit is not adequately descriptive. It was 12 hours of constant battering by a howling, shrieking monster of a storm. By midnight, winds were 120mph 40 miles inland.

When Ivan's eye passed over us at about 2:00am Central, it was a welcome, hour-long reprieve. Then the trailing system came -- more battering winds .. this time from the west.

The major damage in Baldwin County occurred at Dauphin Island, Orange Beach, and Gulf Shores, where Ivan made landfall. All three communities suffered catastrophic damage to homes and businesses. Additionally, storm surge inundated Gulf Shores. Early reports did not indicate such extensive damage, but by early afternoon the results of Ivan's destructive force became clear.

The morning-after scene in the rest of Baldwin County was one of felled trees and downed powerlines. There was hardly a street or road that wasn't blocked or partially blocked by huge, fallen oak, pecan, and pine trees. Damage to residences and businesses was, remarkably, light to moderate.

By Thursday, 8pm Central, Alabama Power & Light and Riviera Utilities had restored power to a large part of Baldwin County .. a feat that was met with gratitude and not a little awe. We had been told it could be a couple of weeks .. several days at best. After experiencing the raw power of Ivan, it is nothing less than amazing that electricity was restored so quickly.

Whatever the utility companies are doing, they're doing it right. They deserve praise for their herculean efforts .. and not a few linesmen deserve pay raises. The same can be said for all of the emergency workers.

All you yankees who hauled ass in a manner that would make the French proud, please don't come back. Your actions in the face of Ivan have earned you the Shield of Shame.

And lastly, one of the most surprising aspects of Ivan is a report that 70,000 people in Mississippi are without power. We didn't realize so many Mississippians had electricity.

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