Better Days Are Coming

Hurricane Ivan - Before and After Pictures on Our Property

Text and Photos Copyright ©2004 by Carolyne Butler

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These trees were in a back corner of our property, upright and with leaves before, but a leafless leaning tangle after Ivan.

The eye of Hurricane Ivan came ashore in the United States in Baldwin County, Alabama, on the night of September 15/16 (Wednesday PM and Thursday AM).

According to some news stories, Ivan was a Category 3 storm with 130 m.p.h. winds, but according to other news stories, it was a Category 4 storm with 135 m.p.h. winds. We live in Pensacola, in Escambia County, the westernmost county in the Florida Panhandle, which adjoins Baldwin County on its east. That put our area in the notoriously dangerous northeast quadrant of the storm.

Our area took a beating such as I've never experienced before in any of the many tropical storms and hurricanes I've experienced since I moved to Pensacola in 1945.

Earlier in the week, the radio announced that we should take "before" pictures for insurance purposes, so on Tuesday, September 14, while the sun was still shining and the storm was still crossing the Gulf headed in our general direction, I went around the property taking pictures. These "after" pictures show just how powerful Ivan's winds were, and how much this storm rearranged the landscape.

The damage seen in these pictures is typical of other damage I've seen in the Pensacola area. Some people had less damage than this, but many had much more damage than this. Our house had minor damage, mostly to the shingles (we'll need reroofing), and our wood stove lost its chimney (we'll need new chimney parts or maybe a new chimney), but many people in our area lost their homes entirely. It saddens and depresses me to see such damage to our area—and to our own trees (as you'll see in these pictures)—but we're more than grateful that we still have a roof over our heads. So many others don't.

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The built-up beds in front of the porch are wanna-be herb beds that haven't got there yet.

BEFORE - Front Yard

Maybe not the fanciest front yard on the block, but Ivan is about to equalize everyone's yards. Over many years, we had finally grown enough trees around the house so that we had shade on the roof nearly all day, which is a big plus when it comes to dealing with hot Florida summers and air-conditioning bills.

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The fallen tree in the foreground is propably a come-by-chance black cherry.

AFTER - Front Yard

The trees in the background have been stripped of most of their leaves, and the front yard is now a mess of downed leaves, limbs, and small trees.

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Lawns require too much upkeep.

BEFORE - Back of house

It's too shady for a lawn, so we let the leaves lie where they fall and call them ground cover. You can see how well the trees shade the roof.

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The leaves on these 'popcorn' trees remind me of aspens, except they don't tremble.

AFTER - Back of house

These popcorn trees (Chinese Tallow) had arched out south over our roof and shaded it nicely, but now they've gone south themselves, courtesy of Ivan. Both will probably have to be cut down, but ecologists tell us that these lovely trees are invasive exotics and should be cut down anyway.

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That cluster of trees consists of two laurel oaks, two longleaf pines, and one sourwood tree (not in photo).

BEFORE - Back of house

We had been worried about this lopsided laurel oak with the heavy limbs that hang over the house, so we had cut off some of its heavier limbs that hung over the roof. When Hurricane Francis was threatening just prior to Hurricane Ivan, we cut yet another heavy limb off, and stacked the wood on the ground. It was still stacked there when Ivan struck and gave us a lot more wood to saw up.

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It had to be cut too.

AFTER - Back of house

Our shade has gone with the wind. One of the laurel oaks in the cluster of trees fell westward and is now blocking the driveway at the end of the house. Not shown in this picture was a sourwood tree in this same cluster of trees that fell over. (We lost the other sourwood tree in the front yard too.)

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Don and Darren are discussing how to cut the plywood to cover our south-facing windows.

BEFORE - Driveway to shop

This view of our shop (furniture upholstery) that's in our backyard is looking north along the driveway.

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Our son, Darren, and grandson, Jordan, are helping with the clean-up work.

AFTER - Driveway to shop

Same driveway, landscaped by Ivan. No customers can get in and we can't get out. Oddly enough, the tree in the foreground fell in the direction of the wind rather than away from it as most of the other trees did. (It was most likely that one of the many hurricane-spawned tornados helped cause this damage in our neighborhood. There are other similar neighborhoods nearby that had much less damage than this.)

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The two thin trees that are slightly leaning are wild persimmon trees. Their leaves shaded the top of the shop.

BEFORE - Shop porch

We spend a lot of time here. We eat meals here, and have a pot of hot green tea in the morning and afternoon so that friends can drop by and have a spot of tea with us. I sometimes do my bookwork here, and read, and anything else I can think of just to be out of doors. It's shady (until Ivan), has a ceiling fan, and we always enjoy watching the birds at the feeders.

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The juniper tree in our neighbor's yard lost its top.

AFTER - Shop porch

We've lost most of our shade for the shop porch. Part of the shade over the shop came from these two trees, with limbs that landed in our neighbor's back yard. The laurel cherry on the right will have to be cut down because all of its limbs were broken, except one. The live oak on the left will probably recover.

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The fence has metal poles sunk into concrete, so maybe they'll hold up.

BEFORE - Trash cans

Don tied our trash cans to a neighbor's fence behind the shop.

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A person's got to be able to get to his trash cans.

AFTER - Trash cans

Tree limbs block the way to the trash cans, but they are a minor obstacle compared to other places in the yard where we couldn't even walk.

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Our driveway usually looks like a tunnel due to the way the trees grow over it.

BEFORE - Driveway

This view is looking south from our shop in the back yard to the road that runs in front of our house.

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Looks more like a jungle, doesn't it?

AFTER - driveway

The driveway has disappeared, being totally blocked by several trees that had fallen into it. Somewhere in that mess is the shop's and bunkhouse's* electric utility pole that broke off when the trees fell on it. We had to cut the wire to it in order to clear the driveway. After nine days we got power back to our house, but our shop was without power for two weeks (making it impossible for Don to work), until an electrician fixed a new pole for us and Gulf Power repaired a broken neutral wire on one of their poles.

*The "bunkhouse" is what we call a little utility shed we built to house our lawnmowers and yard equipment, with an extra room that evolved from being a hobby room and winter greenhouse (its original intention), into a workroom for our children's occupations, plus a lot of other uses - everything except being a real bunkhouse.

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The RV is parked on the east side of the shop, and they said to expect winds from the east and southeast.

BEFORE - RV

We don't have a shelter tall enough to protect the RV, so we had to hope for the best. There was no place else to park the RV.

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The slant of the trees shows that the winds that blew them over came from the east-southeat.

AFTER - RV

Several trees here are leaning precariously and will have to be cut down. The RV had a small hole punched in the roof from a limb that fell on it, and it let rain in on the carpet, but Don did an emergency hole patch on the outside. Otherwise, no other damage that we know of.

We lost electricity during the storm, so we used the refrigerator and freezer (which runs on propane) in the RV to store as much food as we could save. (We lost some food, but not nearly as much as some people did.) We supplimented the RV fridge with several ice chests in which we stored food. Free ice was given out by a number of stores and businesses, or otherwise brought in by outside agencies. What a great help that was!

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AFTER - RV

This picture was taken two weeks after the storm. Thankfully, we were getting some much-welcome outside help (from the Jehovah's Witnesses Disaster Relief Committee). A bucket truck came in and took down these leaning trees plus a few other trees that were safety threats. They also trimmed some high-up limbs that were dangling precariously over our heads.

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Sometimes tin roofs have a poor track record in storms.

BEFORE - Carport

Don used hurricane clips, metal strapping, and cross-bracing when he built the carport, but it has a tin roof. Would all this extra protection help?

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The tree by the carport that split apart is a laurel oak. It probably can't be saved.

AFTER - Carport

Find the carport. It's in there somewhere.

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There was no way we could get our vehicles out of this.

AFTER - Carport

The carport seen from another angle. There was a limb that landed on its roof, but otherwise it wasn't damaged. The big limb in the foreground is actually the top of a laurel oak tree that split off from the trunk. It covered almost half of our parking area.

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It's all a big mess.

AFTER - Carport

The job of cleaning up that was ahead of us was overwhelming. We didn't know where to begin. On Thursday afternoon after the storm, our oldest son came by to check on us and said he would come the next day with a front-end loader and someone to run it. What a welcome relief this was. After they got to work clearing a path for our vehicles to get in and out, we began to feel a little better. Little by little, we're going to get this mess cleared out, but it will still be a long time before we get finished and an even longer time before we get some of our shade back.

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Posted 28 September 2004
Added 1 picture 30 October 2004