Hurricane Ivan 15 Years Later: Lessons Learned In The Aftermath Of The Storm

Sep 17, 2019

Peter McDavid, right, and his wife Sandy McDavid surveyed the damage caused by Hurricane Ivan in the rear of his office building on Palafox.
Credit Sam Upshaw Jr. / Pensacola News Journal

In the years since Hurricane Ivan, everyone who lived through the storm learned some lessons from the experience. Katie King, a photographer the Pensacola News Journal at the time of the storm and Troy Moon who was a reporter at the paper talked about those lessons.

Katie King: I think it really brings a sense of community. It's like the military bond. I don't want to say that we suffered like anything near what military members do, but you have that connection we've struggled together and so you have that bond that connection that comes with a struggle. Also on the flip side of this we learn through Ivan never to take a hurricane lightly.

Troy Moon: That's what I was going to say. I mean I'm from this area and I remember anytime time a hurricane was coming, ‘Hurricane party! Hurricane Party!’ and all that kind of stuff. That stopped after Ivan. It was no longer you know a jovial occasion. We take these things much more seriously and it is because of Ivan.

Tom Ninestine: My first summer here it was girl in George and I remember getting a call from one of the beach bars they said ‘Well where did it make landfall?’ [I answered] ‘Near someone so and so.’ [They said] ‘No, I need to know exactly where.’ ‘What difference does it make?’ ‘Oh we’re having a party out here and there there's two people that are close and we want to figure out who wins the pool.’ But after that there weren't any pools about storms after that.

Troy Moon: I think that's the legacy… one of them.

Tom Ninestine: Hurricane Ivan was a national news story and got national news coverage but once the big networks and papers left Moon and King, and all the other members of the local media, spent months covering the aftermath of the storm. Since then, they got to see how other storms were covered by the big networks and appreciated the value of local news coverage.

For more pictures from Hurricane Ivan, visit the Pensaocla News Journal website. 

Troy Moon: Sometimes these guys do go into the communities and spent a lot of the time. I really think it depends on the storm, but yeah they're not going to know the communities like the local reporters. They’re not going to know the barbecue joints to go to, the community places that everyone loves so no, it's always going to help you got local beat on the ground. We've had to go in the foreign communities and try to do stories do and you always do your best. But, yeah, when you know the terrain it's always gonna be easier.

Katie King: I absolutely think at face value they do a great job of getting to the scene and making sure they have hands on the ground are showing you live what the community experienced. I think where the local news is vital is the after effect. Once the news crews leave, the local news stations in the local news TV newspapers and radio are still feet on the ground and covering it long term aspect.

Troy Moon: The whole insurance stuff, which yeah goes on forever, and we did so many stories on that. And, you know, they don't stay for that kind of stuff. You know the people months later looking at their slab saying ‘I'm fighting with the insurance company’ and whether it’s caused by wind or rain. [The big networks] can't tell those stories. We're around so we get the aftermath.

Katie King: And we're feeling it too, because we're going through it as well.

Tom Ninestine: And the other thing is that summer, Ivan was followed by Gene, which is another monster storm. And then later in the year was a big tsunami in Indonesia. So all of a sudden it's like Pensacola must be back on his feet. Everything must be back to normal. ‘I don't see anything on the Weather Channel about it.’ No because they've gone on to other disasters and they cover other things. They don't stick around for the aftermath.

Troy Moon: The aftermath, for some people, was worse.

Tom Ninestine: While the past few years have seen a number of storms hit the Sunshine State, the hurricane seasons in the mid-2000s were something special — and not in a good way.

Katie King: That 2004-2005 hurricane season — they went beyond the name storms and then went into the Greek alphabet. There were so many of them I think Florida got hit by Charlie, Francis, Ivan, Gene, and then the next year we got hit by Dennis. And then Katrina came by and it was still 115 mile an hour winds where we were. It closed down our airport for three days because I got stuck in North Carolina.  And then Rita, Hurricane Rita, it went right by again and did the exact same thing like two weeks later it was just a two-year period.

Troy Moon: At least they were moving more than one or two miles an hour like Dorian. I've never seen a storm like that.

Katie King: You could walk faster.