Hurricane Ivan has finally come ashore in the United States with a direct hit on Gulf Shores, Alabama. I know that area very well as my family vacations there frequently and my sister owns a condo in Orange Beach, Alabama, a few miles away. They have "storm shutters" installed on their condo unit and it is well above the storm surge line, but judging from some of the damage on other buildings, it's possible they suffered severe damage. They won't know for some time how their unit fared as the roads into Gulf Shores are closed for at least 48 hours.
Nearby Pensacola appears to have suffered extensive damage as well. Probably the most impressive is a section of the interstate over the water way which has collapsed from the storm damage. That's some pretty powerful stuff!
There's been some discussion in the media as to whether or not these people deserve to receive federal disaster relief; they keep building in the same locations after each storm. My argument in response is whether or not we should offer relief to California after earthquakes or Oklahoma after tornados. Each region of the country has its own inherant natural risks involved with living there. It's up to those people to decide whether or not they want to put up with the risks. The deciding factor for most is whether or not they can get insurance for their property. If they can, they'll live there. If not, they probably won't. I realize that this is probably over simplified, but I guess people should just be allowed to live where they want to. Can you imagine visiting Florida without any residences or hotels near the coasts?
I'm glad that New Orleans was spared though... There was a worry that if it had been hit directly by the storm, the resulting flooding of the city would have taken three to six months to drain out...