Hurricane Frederic and the damage and growth of Gulf Shores

Weather

Gulf Shores, Ala., (WKRG)

When you think of Gulf Shores, you think of beaches. You think of condos. And now you start thinking more about traffic.

Highway 59 and Beach Boulevard, a very active part of the city. You know the Giant Shark is a landmark, the Hangout Music Festival, a landmark and of course the entrance to the beaches. But Gulf Shores wasn’t always like this. Let’s go back in time, before Hurricane Frederic, to a quieter Gulf Shores. 

You don’t see high-rises, you see cottages amongst sand dunes in what was to become the City of Gulf Shores. Beach Boulevard is mostly two lanes. The Pink Pony has a pier. The tallest buildings are four stories. Beachside vacation homes and motels sit along the beach. In comes Frederic, out goes building, after building. Those remaining are damaged. A little more to the east, the Rolling Tides hotel went out with the tide. In September of 1979, it was an immediate disaster right after Frederic.

Mel Showers: Ninety-five percent of the structures on the beach received some damage or were destroyed. Some buildings still standing were merely shells. One example was the Holiday Inn. At first glance, the structure appeared to have weathered the storm. but a side view shows a gutted interior. Gulf Shores beach is a ninety-five percent loss. Bob Grip: What about some of the familiar tourist areas, let’s say the State Resort, Gulf Shores State Resort? The problem there, Bob, is you can’t get to it.

The waterslide park- before Frederic and then after Frederic is damaged, never to be rebuilt. The Pink Pony is gone, but it was rebuilt right after Frederic.

Vincent Murphy: They drove the pilings 35 feet into the sand, then came back up and just started building up. Twenty-one days later, there it was, just sitting in the air, 16 foot, one inch above sea level, now.  That’s much higher than we were before. 

Frederic made Gulf Shores build smarter but 25 years later Hurricane Ivan would hit a much-more developed Gulf Shores- Inflicting costly damage through wind and storm surge, with so many more people and buildings impacted. Some properties were severely damaged while others took a beating- Look! The Pink Pony stood up to Ivan in 2004!

Where I stand right now, in front of the Edgewater on West Beach Boulevard, this one spot tells the full story of Hurricane Frederic’s impact on Gulf Shores. It’s all now towering condos.

Before Frederic, it was just a few beach homes and a restaurant called The Crimson Tiki. Frederic wiped the slate clean in 1979, leaving nothing but sand where the restaurant was. Then a condo sprouted. The Edgewater condo was alone. When Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004, the Edgewater stood with Tropical Winds and Surfside. Now the colossal Crystal Tower Condos stands across the street. All of this, in part due to Hurricane Frederic’s destruction.

In Gulf Shores, I’m Chief Meteorologist Alan Sealls, News 5

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