On September 16th, Hurricane Ivan slammed onto Orange Beach as a Cat 3 Hurricane, sustained winds of 130 mph. It caused tremendous damage to homes, condos, retail centers, and the roads. The vegetation was severely windburned, hardly any survived.
Fortunately no one was killed. Gov. Riley ordered everyone off the island, and rerouted I-65 southbound lanes to make them northbound lanes.
I remember this well. My Granny lives in Orange Beach, in The Pines on Wolf Bay. She moved there just months before from her Seaside Condo on the beach. God had a way of telling her she needed to go, NOW. She evacuated to my aunt's house in Wilsonville, AL. My uncle, who lives in Mobile, stayed behind and took shelter at the National Guard Armory where he was a reserve.
Traffic on I-65 on September 14 was horrific, even in Birmingham. There was no hotel, motel room to be had. It took me over an hour to get to work, which normally only took me 15 minutes. The license tags on the car were not only from Baldwin and Mobile counties, but Escambia (both FL and AL) Conecuh counties were tags that I recognized.
I had a terrible gut feeling... a feeling of doom, fear and sadness. It was like I knew my home away from home was about to change forever.
And it did.
In the early morning hours of Sept 16th, Ivan rolled ashore with furor. The aftermath was devestating. Hwy 182, was destroyed. Many condos were destroyed, and had to come down. Many popular restraunts, gone. The trees and shrubs were badly windburned. Hwy 59 was flooded - with water, furniture, appliances, and the alligators.
It was a week before my grandmother who lived in zone 13 was allowed back on the island. We feared the worst, she is 4 minutes from the beach, 1/2 block from Wolf Bay and just a few miles from the canal. We thought for sure she would be flooded out.
Fortuantely, not even a screen was out of place. She was lucky, being that she had just moved in, and didn't have hurricane shutters, and had to leave in such a hurry there was no time to get shutters, much less get one of us up here to come down and board her windows for her. The condo complex she lived in was severely damaged. The first floor was completely blown out, and the next two floors suffered serious water damage.
Two years later, most of the damaged houses are removed, and being replaced by high rise condos. Palms trees have been replaced, and restraunts have been rebuilt. You have to look really hard and know the area well to know what used to be where. The further East you go, into Florida, Perdido Beach and Pensacola, you can still see lots of damage. Florida didn't fare so well.