Ivan devastated Gulf Coast in Alabama
Hurricane Ivan has slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast with devastating winds. Ivan's eye moved ashore at about 8 a.m. near Gulf Shores, Alabama, east of New Orleans and just west of Florida's panhandle. The wrath of the Texas-sized storm was felt over a huge stretch of the coast and inland in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. Thousands of people huddled in shelters and hundreds of thousands were without power. Ivan's top sustained winds ebbed to 80 mph just before its eye hit land, but it was a major hurricane capable of serious damage. Once the sixth most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record, Ivan killed 68 people during its rampage through the Caribbean. Authorities said it would be hours before they could assess the damage, and look for anyone left injured or stranded.
Tens of thousands of residents fled the coast before Ivan arrived. Alabama Governor Rob Riley said on the CBS "Early Show" that in his state there were no reported fatalities from the storm as of Thursday morning but that a quarter of a million people were without power. "We know there's extensive damage along the coast, we know there's a tremendous amount of flooding," he said. "We have downed power lines all over the state, especially along the Gulf Coast." In Mobile, Alabama -- a city of 200,000 lashed for hours with torrential rains and vicious winds -- Mayor Mike Dow had sent his own family north. "I never play with these things. I didn't think twice about getting them out of here."
Pensacola, Florida, east of Mobile, was pounded by huge waves, heavy rain and high winds. Power lines were down and buildings surrounded by water. Experts said Ivan could cause up to $10 billion in insured losses in the United States on top of the $1 billion to $2 billion in losses in the Caribbean. At 1 p.m., Ivan's eye was inland, about 90 miles west-southwest of Montgomery, Alabama, and moving at about 17 miles per hour, forecasters said. Its top sustained winds had dropped to about 80 mph. Ivan was expected to gradually continue to weaken as it moved over land, bearing up to 15 inches of rain. The hurricane centre warned that Ivan could cause major flooding over the southeastern United States in the coming days. At times during its passage through the Caribbean, Ivan, with sustained winds of 165 mph, had been a rare top-level Category 5 storm on forecasters' five-level Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity.