16 years ago today, Hurricane Ivan passed over Jamaica leaving devastation in its path

The southern coastline of Clarendon was hardest hit by Ivan’s near-direct landfall. (Photo: Recmod.com)

Do you remember where you were during Hurricane Ivan?

It was 2004, I was a child, and excited to witness my first hurricane. The sky was overcast, the trees were being forced into an eerie dance by the insistent winds, and my father was busy battening down our windows with any piece of the board he could find.

The anticipation was thick among me and my siblings. Prior to this, we had only heard of hurricanes- primarily of the damage that Hurricane Gilbert had done to the island in 1988. In our childlike innocence, we were excited to see how Hurricane Ivan would compare.

On August 10, we were teased with Hurricane Charley, a category 1 storm that passed along Jamaica’s south coast. It caused extensive flooding in sections of southern parishes, and Ivan we were told, would do worse.

(NOAA via AP)

Hurricane Ivan started off as Tropical Depression Number Nine, formed in the Eastern Atlantic on September 2, 2004. By September 5, it had become Hurricane Ivan, the ninth tropical cyclone of the 2004 north Atlantic hurricane season. It was first forecasted to pass directly over Jamaica as a category 5 storm. And eventually passed along the south coast between September 10 and 11.

At its closest point of approach, it was 30 km south of the parish of Clarendon. The strongest winds recorded were at 214km/hr on the Pedro Bank, 90 km off the south coast. Doppler radar estimates sustained winds of 180km/h across the island during the early hours of September 11.

A Jamaican family looks helplessly as a house crumbles following the passage of Hurricane Ivan (Photo: Emma Lewis)

Hurricane Ivan did not make landfall, but it caused 14 deaths and left over people 18,000 homeless. The damage was extensive across the island, with southern parishes affected the most. Storm surges of 3-4 metres in some locations caused extensive damage to natural coastal systems and housing. Wind damage to vegetation and roofs was also severe, particularly at higher elevations.

The total cost of the damage done by Hurricane Ivan was estimated to be $35 billion ($US575 million).

These motor vehicles were buried inches in thick mud after a landslide in St. Andrew (Photo: Recmod.com)

Thankfully, our roof stayed on. But as the winds and the rain subsided, and we witnessed the damage Hurricane Ivan had done and felt the effect of its passing, our excitement at it’s coming was replaced with relief that it was gone. Hopefully, another one like it would never return.