It’s not like we were “overdue” for a hurricane to strike the Alabama Gulf Coast; there’s really no such thing as that.
It is interesting, though, that Wednesday’s direct hit (landfall) from Hurricane Sally came exactly sixteen years, two hours and forty-five minutes after the last direct hit: Hurricane Ivan. The two landfalls were only separated by about 13 miles; that’s roughly the distance from Downtown Huntsville to Huntsville International Airport.
The similarities are striking both visibly on radar and satellite as well as with the impact (storm surge and wind damage). Sally may not have been technically as ‘strong’ as Ivan, but the flooding and widespread damage caused by the slow-moving, sprawling eye wall is just as devastating and memorable.
Climatologically speaking, Alabama’s coastline sees a “return period” of about ten years for a hurricane; basically, if we get a hurricane every ten years, that’s considered normal.
The return period for a “major” hurricane is 28 years. A “major” hurricane is a Category Three or higher. Had Sally been over water a bit longer, it might have had enough time to get to that point! Winds were around 105 miles per hour at landfall; Category 3 starts at 111 miles per hour.
Here’s more about Sally’s impact on Alabama from WHNT.com: