Ivan… You Big Bully

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 16, 2004

Hurricane Ivan could have been more terrible. His fidgety eye — peering right, then left, then right again — finally focused on central Alabama and left the massive rains and sporadic tornadoes to neighbors just east of this region.

Then again, Ivan could have taken it a little easier on people like Laverne Biggs, whose car couldn’t withstand the tumble of a chinaberry tree. It could have skipped lifting a secondary roof off the top of the Faunsdale Bar and Grill. It could have left the power alone for nearly 20,000 homes in West Alabama.

In a sense, Ivan lived up to his billing but spared a knockout left jab.

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“We got through it OK,” said Dan Meissner, spokesman for Gulf States Paper Corp. “We only lost power for about an hour.”

Mike Marshall, CEO of Bryan Whitfield Memorial Hospital, couldn’t complain. His facility never missed a heartbeat when Ivan took out its mouthpiece and bit the region. In fact, Marshall found time during the day — like many others in Demopolis — to get behind the wheel and survey some of the damage around town.

By 9:30 a.m., citizens in Demopolis just couldn’t stand the novelty of a hurricane any longer. In a Christmas sort-of fashion, families piled in their SUVs and slowly crept along neighborhood streets, surveying downed pines rather than lit cedars.

Teenaged boys hopped on ATVs, strapped a chainsaw to the back, and solicited tree service for a few bucks.

Others took inventory of life’s more important amenities. A group of young men surveyed the Demopolis Country Club’s golf course, hinted at a long-drive competition — down-wind, of course — and celebrated Ivan’s removal of the small cedar that swallowed one-too-many good drives on No. 16.

Across the southeast, Ivan wasn’t quite so kind. More than 1.5 million lost power and at least 18 had been killed as of press time.

For most, this hurricane’s toughest punch may come in the days to follow. As of 5 p.m. Thursday, strong winds continued to whip through determined tree limbs. While most of the foliage has already taken a final plunge, homeowners in Demopolis and West Alabama will spend the next few days searching for missing shingles and storm window screws.

In the area that mattered most, though, Hurricane Ivan spared West Alabama. As of press time, no deaths or serious injuries had been reported.