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Hurricane Ivan Crashes Into US Gulf Coast  - 2004-09-16

At least four people were killed as Hurricane Ivan came ashore along the Gulf Coast of the southeastern United States on Thursday. Ivan has now weakened, but is expected to bring heavy flooding to the region over the next several days.

Ivan began to break up as it moved ashore along the gulf coast of Alabama and Florida. The storm left a path of death and destruction, as it moved through the Caribbean over the past week, devastating islands, before striking the United States early Thursday.

Now, the storm is bringing heavy flooding to the southeastern United States. Jennifer Pralgo, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center in Miami says Ivan is still a dangerous storm.

"More deaths actually occur from inland flooding than from storm surge," she explained. "We say that because people inland do not understand the threat from inland flooding. We are looking to have anywhere between 10 and 15 inches [30 centimeters] of rain deluge the area. So, this is a very real threat."

More than two million people are believed to have left coastal areas as Ivan approached the Gulf Coast, including about one million residents of the city of New Orleans, which lies below sea level. However, Ivan veered east on Thursday, missing New Orleans. Residents of Mobile, Alabama, who feared a storm surge could flood their bay and downtown area also breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday, as Ivan passed just to the east, sparing the city. Jennifer Pralgo says residents of both cities should consider themselves lucky.

"It would have been catastrophic for Mobile, if this storm had gone west of them," she said. "And it would have been the same thing if it had gone west of New Orleans."

Hundreds of thousands of Alabama and Florida residents are without power, and authorities have activated National Guard units to help in recovery efforts and maintain law and order. Ivan was the third hurricane to strike Florida in a month. Florida officials say they are still helping their citizens recover from hurricanes Charley and Frances, which struck the southern and central parts of the state.