Twelve years ago today, the category three Hurricane Ivan made landfall on the Gulf Coast.
One of the hardest hit areas in our coverage area fell between NAS Pensacola and Big Lagoon State Park. We visited some of the neighborhoods in the area today and talked to neighbors about moving forward after Ivan.
Calls poured in for first responders. The wind whipped through the trees. Water crashed into the homes and neighborhoods of Pensacola.
But today, it’s quiet. Leanne and Bob Sterriker sat outside reading the paper. It’s not dated this year. Actually, they say it feels like it wasn’t even in this lifetime.
“Looked like a war zone over there,” Bob commented as he looked over the headlines.
The Sterriker’s roof was damaged, trees were uprooted. For a few weeks, their lives were uprooted as well.
“it was several months… It was probably two, three, four weeks before we got power back,” Bob, who lives in Chevalier Subdivision said.
They fixed their home, and everyone was safe. Their community grew closer through the destruction.
“People just came together,” Leanne said. “We had never known any of them before, so we have lasting friendships for a very long time, and we are very close.”
It’s hard to believe less than a half mile down the road, a community still bears the scars of Hurricane Ivan.
“It’s amazing to me because I wasn’t living here during Ivan,” said Rhonda Cooper, who has lived in Grande Lagoon for two years now. “But, for almost everyone who was in this neighborhood… it was like it happened yesterday.”
“We had a 52 foot sailboat behind here, and anyway, it took out the whole side of the house,” said Bruce Bell, who has lived in Grande Lagoon for 27 years.
There’s still several empty lots in the community. Neighbors said they serve as a reminder of the destruction that can come in off the gulf.
“There’s a few lots out there you see that still have the slabs and the pylons that are still reminders that this place was devastated,” Bell said.
One neighbor even said she can’t fear a storm taking everything again when it was all taken already.
“I don’t feel traumatized in that respect as far as being petrified that another storm is going to wipe me out again,” Anne Daniel said. She moved into the community less than a year before Ivan made landfall. “Most of my personal property and memories I had of my children when they were little are gone, so I don’t have to go through that again.”
After the hurricane, some rebuilt, but many left and never looked back.
“We’ve lost a lot of neighbors too, that was good friends back then,” Bell said. “But there’s new neighbors, and it’s built up better and stronger than before.”
Hurricane Ivan killed more than a dozen people in Florida. It’s also known as the sixth costliest U.S. Atlantic Hurricane, causing $18.8 billion in damage.