Then Ida was downgraded again. And again. Finally, Ida wore herself out as what meteorologists call a "rain event."
But before it became evident that this late-season tropical disturbance would not come ashore as a hurricane, residents on the Gulf Coast got a chance to see if federal, state and local agencies had learned lessons from the past and were ready just in case.
From initial reports, the agencies were prepared.
School closings already were announced when Gov. Bob Riley declared a state of emergency around noon Monday for the coastal counties. At that point, shelters were opened and residents from low-lying areas began trickling in. Word was out that evacuation from flood-prone places was voluntary, yet still a good idea. Having seen what storm surge can do, many people took that advice.
Around daybreak Tuesday, the center of Ida came ashore on Dauphin Island. Waves were high. There was erosion on the west end, where past efforts to preserve the beach from seasonal storms have proved frustrating and generally futile.
Once ashore, Ida weakened further, turned east and dumped more rain on Alabama, Georgia and, eventually, headed for the Carolinas.
Reporters from The Weather Channel began packing, leaving the Gulf Coast states to assess the damage, clean up and learn from the experience.
Ida was a dry run — well, maybe not "dry" — for something bigger; one day, something bigger will come Alabama's way. And for the most part, the state seems to have passed this test.
However, as the sky clears and the water recedes, the agencies that apparently responded well need to make a full assessment of what was done correctly and what mistakes may have been made.
Were the flood maps, supposedly updated after Hurricane Katrina, accurate and adequate? Did this storm reveal anything unexpected or were the impact predictions on target? And what of the beach? How did efforts to rebuild an eroded coastline hold up under the pounding it took? Nature has a way of belittling man's puny efforts to harness her. What did nature do this time?
Although Ida was not a hurricane when she arrived on shore, the storm contained many of the elements that future storms will bring.
Let's learn from it.