What it was like to go through Hurricane Ivan with wind surges reaching 160+.
Hurricane Ivan the Terrible
By: Tracey Criswell Wilson
I shone my powerful flashlight into the blackest night I've ever known. The darkness absorbed the light as if it weren't even there. What little I could see, I caught in strobe-flashes of lightning. The winds were howling and screaming as the 140+ mph winds snapped the trees as easily as snapping beans. My eyes widening and my heart was racing as I thought, this has to be the worst storm I've seen since Freddy. I was excited and scared at the same time. Adrenaline rushed through my veins. It was 1:00 a.m. and it was bad outside, but would get worse as the storm was expected to last until noon the next day.
The darkness kept shocking us with bluish-green bright lightning that filled the whole sky, closely followed by a hiss, zap and loud echo of a boom, as another transformer blew. The transformers were blowing faster than we could count. We watched as different parts of the surrounding neighborhoods went black; house and streetlights flickered out. We still had electricity, but we knew it would be our turn soon. As the sky lit up with the eerie green light, we heard another hiss and boom that left us in the darkness. Now, there was no light anywhere. We were in total obscurity.
Electricity filled the sky. I could hear the angry Gulf of Mexico roaring about eight miles from my home. The radio announced that a 57-foot wave had been seen out in the ocean. I thought to myself, God only knows how big it would be by the time it made landfall. The once beautiful, serene beaches wouldn't have a chance. Their tranquil visage was already being slammed with waves and sand. In the morning, the storm will still be raging on, but the beaches would have long since lost their battle.
Standing at the door, trying to watch what I could only hear, I wondered what destruction we'd wake up to in the morning. All of a sudden, when I thought the storm couldn't sound any fiercer than it already was, a noise like a train fighting to stay on tracks filled the air. My huge, beautiful oak tree that stood proudly in my front yard started leaning over. I yelled, "There she goes! Our tree is falling, it's falling!" There was so much noise that all you could hear was a groaning creak of the wood, as the tree was being pulled up from the roots! It went down sluggishly at first; almost as if in slow motion, then what could almost be explained as graceful, the once proud tree gave up the fight and came to a rest in my and my neighbor's front yard.
With all my might, I leaned into the door and shut it as I yelled, "It's a tornado!" A sound like popping popcorn was all around us.
"Lord, what is that sound?"
Over and over, an eerie Pop-Plop, Pop-Plop, assaulted our ears. Flashlights lit our shocked faces as we listened to trees falling, debris flying and fences being torn apart. The sound of the handicapped train vanished, leaving us to once again hear only the screaming wind, as if it was in pain.
It was going on 3:00-3:30 a.m. when my sister said she was going to go lie down. She went back to her room and called, "Tracey, come here, quick." I ran back to her room and she pointed up to her ceiling where it was bowed in two places and cracked down the middle. Water was streaming out of both of the cracks. We quickly found two buckets to catch the leaks. We checked the other rooms and found another room to be in just as bad a shape. We then realized that the popping sound had been our shingles being plucked off of the roof one by one. We found buckets to catch all the leaks. Great, I thought, a leaking ceiling in the middle of a hurricane.
We all went back into the living room. Everyone was worn out. My husband fell asleep in the chair and a friend on an air mattress in the living room. Jackie, my sister, kept saying she was going to go lie down in her room.
"No," I begged, "please don't go lie down. The ceiling could fall in on you."
I could see it happening just as plain as day. Twenty minutes later Jackie said, "I'll be all right, I'm going to lie down for a few minutes."
Just as I got ready to protest, we heard a loud crash and slosh. We ran back into her room and the whole half of her ceiling had fallen onto her bed and the surrounding area. As the rain rushed in through the ceiling, it appeared like waterfalls in some places.
"All my stuff," she whispered.
We made a convoy line and got her bedroom cleaned out in five minutes flat, except for the furniture. If the ceiling had waited five more minutes to fall, my sister would have been in bed.
"We need to go into the spare room and get all the things out, in case the ceiling falls in, in there, as well," I said.
Everyone agreed. Then we heard another loud crash. It was too late; the ceiling was crumbling away to nothing. I stood under the waterfall and threw books, pictures, porcelain dolls and other knick-knacks toward them to be quickly carried out of the spare room into the living room. While doing this we heard another loud noise. When we were through, we went to find where the awful sound was coming from. The rest of Jackie's ceiling had fallen down. The bedroom furniture might as well have been sitting outside. Turning around, we shut the door and ran into another stream of water coming from the ceiling in the hall. I went to check my room and found two more leaks there. We went ahead and moved everything out of my room. We came back into the crowded living room and sports room, which now contained three rooms full of stuff. We cleaned insulation, ceiling dust and other foreign substances, from everything the best we could and placed them into stacks or garbage bags.
Slowly, everyone lay down and closed their eyes. I was sitting up with my flashlight and would go investigate each time I heard a crash. I couldn't believe the destruction inside my home. But, I thanked God that He kept all of us safe, including my three little dogs.
I must have dozed off for an hour or so because when I opened my eyes again, the daylight was streaming through the double doors. I quickly got up and looked outside. It felt strange seeing the daylight since it seemed so out of place in the midst of such destruction. As I looked out all I could think of was that it looked like a war zone. The outside looked as if bombs had been dropped all around us.
Slowly, the others started to wake as well. Not only was there total destruction outside the house but also inside as well; three feet of insulation lay scattered throughout. Ceiling material lay angrily at strange angles on the floor. By the time morning had arrived, the storm still howled, but no longer so fiercely. I walked through my home. The ceilings in the foyer, hall, three bedrooms and garage had all collapsed. Outside, our two biggest trees were lying on the ground. Branches from the surrounding, half-standing trees were twisted around into angles I didn’t know could exist. I could see neighbor's homes that were always protected by what were once privacy fences. The streets were not passable because the trees, power lines, objects of every kind imaginable, and floods covered most of them.
I will never forget the destruction Hurricane Ivan the Terrible brought upon us. It’s been a couple of months since Hurricane Ivan, and we are still staying in our living room. Slowly we're tacking up ceiling felt for the ceilings, cleaning up the inside and outside of the house, and pulling up wet carpets so we won't have to feel the squish beneath our feet or inhale their horrible, sour smell.
As I stand amidst all the destruction, I thank God, as I realize we are among the lucky ones.