Ivan called ‘benchmark’ hurricane

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 15, 2004

At the Dallas County Emergency Management Agency meeting, EMA Director Brett Howard made the situation clear for everyone present.

“This is a benchmark storm and it may be one like we’ve never seen before,” he said.

The statement was backed by Tuesday’s information broadcast to the EMA office by the National Weather Service, which said that Hurricane Ivan was currently a Category 3 storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

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While it’s hoped the storm will weaken before the edges of the storm push onto the Alabama Coastline, it’s likely to still be a Category 3 borderline Category 4 storm.

That means when the eye of the storm crosses Safford on Thursday, Selma will host at least a Category 1 hurricane, with sustained winds up to 60 mph and gusts at 100 mph.

“It’s going to be worse,” Howard said. “It’s going to get worse.”

Meteorologists are comparing Ivan to Hurricane Frederick, which did major damage statewide in the 1970s.

Ivan has two sides, a bad side and a worse side. The west side of the storm is slightly weaker. The east side contains more rain and fiercer winds, Howard said.

With the eye passing over Safford, it doesn’t look good for Dallas County.

“That puts us on the bad side,” he said.

While the winds will be bad enough, another problem facing the area is flash flooding due to massive rains. Ivan is expected to dump anywhere from 5 to 12 in. of water on Selma before slowing moving Northwest.

The storm, traveling at about 12 miles an hour as of presstime, won’t move quickly through the area, meaning residents will be without much needed utilities and services until the weather clears and probably even later.

Art Scroggins, a supervisor with Alabama Power, said his crews won’t be able to start working on any power outages until Friday at the earliest.

“You’d better find your batteries,” he said. “If it (power) goes out, you’re going to be out for a while.”

The storm is expected to move into the area late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.

“You’re going to start feeling the winds Wednesday,” he said. Howard said residents shouldn’t expect to go anywhere until Friday, at the earliest.

Already, the area Red Cross has designated shelter areas for Dallas County residents in mobile homes and other structurally weak homes at the Lions Arena and the Troopers Academy in Craig Field.

About eight other shelters are available and will open as necessary. While evacuation isn’t mandatory, Howard urges mobile home residents to find more stable shelter.

“We’re urging people to evacuate mobile homes,” Howard said. “Head for shelter Wednesday night.”

Howard urges many people to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary after Wednesday.

“Citizens just need to stay put,” Howard said. “This isn’t our first rodeo down here.”