The US Geological Survey (motto: "science for a changing world") conducted an aerial photographic survey of some of the barrier islands hit by Hurricane Ivan. They've posted some of the photos from that survey, accompanied by "before" shots from July, to demonstrate the effects of Ivan.
The barrier islands exposed to Ivan's strongest winds, for example, the communities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, AL, are, in places, low lying, their dunes rising up only several meters, which is insufficient to have contained Ivan's storm surge. The Gulf spilled across the islands in a strong current capable of transporting massive amounts of sand landward, undermining buildings and roads, and opening new island breaches. On top of the surge, breaking waves nearly as tall as the water was deep, eroded dunes and battered structures.
They have a similar page for Hurricane Frances (2004), with more discussion and fewer images, as well as Hurricanes Charley (2004), Isabel (2003), Dennis (1999), Georges (1998), Bonnie (1998), and Fran (1996). They also have a page describing how the USGS impact studies are carried out.