The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says Hurricane Ivan was a classical, long-lived Cape Verde hurricane that reached Category 5 strength on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale three times. It was also the strongest hurricane on record that far southeast of the Lesser Antilles.
Ivan caused considerable damage and loss of life as it churned through the Caribbean Sea. After passing Grenada and moving into the southeastern Caribbean Sea, Ivan reached category 5 strength for the first time on September 8. As Ivan passed south of Jamaica it weakened to category 4 strength, in part due to an eyewall replacement, then moved away from Jamaica. The storm rapidly intensified to category 5 strength a second time on September 11 while it remained in a low vertical shear environment.
After a brief weakening, Ivan regained category 5 strength for the third time on September 12 west of Grand Cayman Island bringing widespread wind damage and a storm surge that completely over swept the island, except for the extreme northeastern portion. Ivan maintained category 5 strength for an unusually long 30 hours into September 13. Ivan then moved into the Gulf of Mexico and encountered increased vertical shear and dry air entrainment, yet made landfall as a category 3 hurricane just west of Gulf Shores, AL on September 16.
A northeastward motion on land continued for the next 36 hours before Ivan merged with a frontal system and became an extratropical low over the DelMarVa peninsula on September 18. Even as a weak tropical depression, Ivan was a prodigious rain and tornado producer causing flash floods and tornado damage across much of the southeastern United States.
As an extratropical low, the remnant circulation of Ivan was still identifiable in both surface and upper-air data. Over the next 3 days, the low moved south and southwestward and eventually crossed the southern Florida peninsula from the Atlantic on the morning of September 21 and emerged over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico later that afternoon. As Ivan moved westward across the warm water of the Gulf, the low began to re-acquire warm core, tropical characteristics and showers and thunderstorms started developing near the well-defined low-level circulation center.
During the morning of September 22, Ivan completed a large anticyclonic loop and reconnaissance aircraft reports indicated that it had become a tropical depression again over the central Gulf of Mexico. Ivan regained tropical strength 6 hours later when it was located south of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Tropical Storm Ivan turned northwestward and made landfall as a tropical depression in extreme southwestern Louisiana on September 24.
After landfall, Ivan quickly dissipated over the upper Texas coastal area northwest of Beaumont. Including its extratropical phase, Ivan existed for 22.5 days and produced a track more than 5600 nautical miles long. This movie shows the GOES East imagery from September 1 through September 30, 2004. At the beginning of the sequence Hurricane Frances moves northwest of Hispaniola on its way to landfall in Florida.
At the end of the sequence Hurricane Jeanne comes ashore in Florida and moves up the east coast.