Grenada’s Endangered Archives

Grenada's Endangered Archives

Hurricane Ivan – Threatens Our Heritage

Hurricane Ivan was a large, long-lived, Cape Verde-type hurricane that caused widespread damage in the Caribbean and United States. The cyclone was the ninth named storm, the sixth hurricane and the fourth major hurricane of the active 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. Ivan formed in early September, had reached Category 5 strength on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, and became the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. At its peak in the Gulf of Mexico, Ivan was the size of the state of Texas. It also spawned 120 tornadoes across the eastern United States.

Ivan caused catastrophic damage to Grenada as a strong Category 3 storm, heavy damage to Jamaica as a strong Category 4 storm and then Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands and the western tip of Cuba as a Category 5 storm. After peaking in strength, the hurricane moved north-northwest across the Gulf of Mexico to strike Florida as a strong Category 3 storm, causing significant damage. Ivan dropped heavy rains on the Southeastern United States as it progressed northeast and east through the eastern United States, becoming an extratropical cyclone. The remnant low from the storm moved into the western subtropical Atlantic and regenerated into a tropical cyclone, which then moved across Florida and the Gulf of Mexico into Louisiana and Texas, causing minimal damage. Ivan caused an estimated US$18 billion (2004 USD, $22.5 billion 2015 USD) in damages to the United States, making it the fifth costliest hurricane ever to strike the country.

Category 5 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
A picture of Hurricane Ivan

Hurricane Ivan, shortly after achieving peak intensity
Formed 2 September 2004
Dissipated 24 September 2004
Highest winds 1-minute sustained: 165 mph (270 km/h)
Lowest pressure 910 mbar (hPa); 26.87 inHg
Fatalities 92 direct, 32 indirect
Damage $18.82 billion (2004 USD)
Caribbean Areas affected Windward Islands (especially Grenada), Venezuela, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cuba

On 2 September 2004 the Tropical Depression ‘Nine’ formed from a large tropical wave southwest of Cape Verde. As the system moved to the west, it strengthened gradually, becoming Tropical Storm Ivan on 3 September and reaching hurricane strength on 5 September 1,150 miles (1,850 km) to the east of Tobago.

Ivan set 18 new records for intensity at low latitudes. When Ivan first became a Category 3 hurricane on 3 September (1800 UTC), it was centered near 10.2 degrees north from the equator.

By 5 September, a hurricane watch was posted for Barbados. Early on the following day, a tropical storm watch was issued for Grenada. Later that day, hurricane watches were also put into effect for St. Lucia, and Martinique. A tropical storm warning was issued for St. Vincent and Grenadines and Tobago and Grenada. By 1500 UTC on 6 September, the hurricane watches and tropical storm watches and warnings were upgraded to a hurricane warning and expanded to: Barbados, St. Vincent and Grenadines, St. Lucia, Tobago, Grenada. On 7 September the hurricane warning in effect for several countries was downgraded to a tropical storm warning. By September, all tropical storm and hurricane watches and warnings were discontinued in the eastern portions of the Windward Islands.

Ivan passed directly over Grenada on 7 September 2004, killing 39 people. Our capital, St. George’s, was severely damaged and several notable buildings were destroyed, including the residence of the prime minister. Ivan also caused extensive damage to a local prison, allowing most of the inmates to escape. The National Archives, held in the National Library building on the Carenage was also under sever threat and it’s roof, like most on the island was damaged, causing water to flood in and damage the many rare documents.  The island, in the words of a Caribbean disaster official, suffered “total devastation.” According to one member of our Grenadian parliament, at least 85% of our small island was devastated, certainly 90% of our housing lost their roofs. Because our then Prime Minister left the island on an American ship many Grenadian’s felt abandend and this was the major cause of panic and subsequent extensive looting that was reported. In all, damage on our island totalled US$815 million (2004 USD, $1.02 billion 2015 USD).

Because of Ivan, Grenada suffered serious economic repercussions following the destruction caused by the hurricane. Before Ivan, the economy of Grenada was projected to grow by 4.7%, but the island’s economy instead crashed by nearly 3% in 2004. The economy was also projected to grow by at least 5% through 2007, but, as of 2005, that estimate had been lowered to less than 1%. The government of Grenada also admitted that government debt, 130% of the island’s GDP, was “unsustainable” in October 2004 and appointed a group of professional debt advisors in January 2005 to help seek a cooperative restructuring agreement with creditors.  More than US$150 million was sent to Grenada in 2004 to aid reconstruction following Ivan, but the economic situation remains fragile. The International Monetary Fund reports that as “difficult enough as the present fiscal situation is, it is unfortunately quite easy to envisage circumstances that would make it even more so.” Furthermore, “shortfalls in donor financing and tax revenues, or events such as a further rise in global oil prices, pose a grave risk.”

We are still struggling to recover and our National Heritage in the Archives continue to remain at the highest of risks and under threat of lost to all for all time.

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