Friday, August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley left a trail of devastation in Florida not seen since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. For those of us who experienced Hurricane Charley, it is certainly a day we won't forget.
The pieces are still being put back together in many places, but in time, hopefully most of the homes, businesses and vital industries that were affected by Charley, will be back better than ever.
I was finally able to find the time to get this website up and running about 7 months after that fateful day. Thank you for visiting and feel free to sign the guestbook.
Tropical Depression Three formed over the far southeastern Caribbean on August 10, 2004, and became Tropical Storm Charley just a few hours later. On the following day, Tropical Storm Charley became Hurricane Charley near Jamaica. With its Category 1 Storm status (winds of 74-95 mph) Charley was still days away from a possible landfall in the US, which meant that many Florida residents were not incredibly concerned about a potential landfall, and in a few instances, even aware of its existence.
Charley finally got our undivided attention here in Punta Gorda, Florida, on Thursday August 12, as it moved northward on a course to cross western Cuba. In the the early morning hours of Friday August 13, Charley crossed western Cuba as a Category 3 hurricane and brought impressive storm surge heights of over 13 ft.
A few short hours after battering western Cuba, Charley would emerged into the Gulf of Mexico - with forecasts beginning to predict a Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida area landfall.
Local TV Starts Buzzing
Was Charley beginning to make an eastward shift towards the coast way ahead of schedule? That was the dilemma facing southwest Florida weather forecasters in the late morning hours of August 13.
Jim Reif ||||||||||| Robert Van Winkle
We decided to switch over to local TV coverage from national coverage at about 11:00 am just as reports began to emerge that Charley was rapidly gaining stength. ABC-7 Chief Meteorologist Jim Reif and WBBH NBC-2 Chief Meteorologist Robert Van Winkle were also suggesting that Charley was defying previous predictions of a Tampa/St. Petersburg landfall, and instead appeared to be on course for landfall approximately 100 miles south. It was quickly becoming clear that Hurricane Charley had southwest Florida directly in its sights.
As part of a joint effort by WZVN and WBBH, both Reif and Van Winkle were working and relaying information from the same weather center. I can't emphasize enough how well orchestrated and informative this broadcast was. Seeing the ominous radar and satellite images being displayed, accompanied by equally ominous new weather data, was the very definition of surreal.
Charley Roars Ashore
Hurricane Charley made its first U.S. landfall on the barrier island of Cayo Costa just west of Cape Coral at 3:45 pm as a Category 4 Hurricane (winds of 131 to 155 mph). The barrier islands of Captiva, Sanibel, and Pine Island all received a considerable impact, with the town of Bokeelia located on the north end of Pine Island experiencing major damage and destruction in many places. Although Cape Coral and Fort Myers would be spared a direct hit from Charley, both communites still received notable damage compliments of Charley's outer-most eyewall - which carried winds in excess of 100 mph.
At roughly 4:25 pm Hurricane Charley's Category 4 winds began to batter Punta Gorda. Charley's maximum sustained winds at the time of landfall in Punta Gorda were 145 mph, with gusts of 175 mph.
After leaving a trail of devastation here in Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte and many other areas of Charlotte County, Hurricane Charley maintained major hurricane status as it tore a path through neighboring Desoto County - causing large-scale damage and destruction to the town of Arcadia. Hurricane Charley continued on its destructive track to the northeast, scoring a direct hit on both Hardee and Polk Counties before arriving in the Orlando and Kissimmee area at approximately 8:45 pm.
At this time Charley's sustained winds were still a punishing 85 mph, which were capped with ferocious 110 mph wind gusts. With over 1,000,000 people residing in the Orlando metropolitan area, Charley was now causing havoc in the most populated area along its path.
Charley then moved through the Daytona Beach area 2 hours later with similar wind speeds before heading into the Atlantic Ocean.
Charley, now over water once again, continued moving rapidly to the NE and would eventually lash the Carolina coast a day later as a category 1 hurricane.
An interesting side note -- Reif and Van Winkle reunited approximately 1 year later for coverage of Hurricane Wilma. Wilma, with sustained winds near 125 mph slammed into the Naples, Florida area in the early morning hours of October 24, 2005. After punishing most of Collier County and causing notable damage in some parts of Lee County, Wilma continued its trek across southern Florida where it would soon menace the highly-populated counties of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.
Click On This Link To See Various Hurricane Charley Damage Photos
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