Hurricane Charley was the third named storm, the second hurricane, and the second major hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. Charley lasted from August 9 to August 15, and at its peak intensity it attained 150 mph (240 km/h) winds, making it a strong Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. The storm made landfall in southwestern Florida at maximum strength, thus making it the strongest hurricane to hit the United States since Hurricane Andrew struck Florida twelve years before, in 1992.
After moving briskly through the Caribbean Sea, Charley crossed Cuba on Friday, August 13 as a Category 3 hurricane, causing heavy damage and four deaths. That same day, the hurricane crossed over the Dry Tortugas, just 22 hours after Tropical Storm Bonnie struck northwestern Florida. This was the first time in history that two tropical cyclones struck the same state in a 24-hour time period. At its peak intensity of 150 mph (240 km/h), Hurricane Charley struck the northern tip of Captiva Island and the southern tip of North Captiva Island, causing severe damage in both areas. Charley, the strongest hurricane to hit southwest Florida since Hurricane Donna in 1960, then continued to produce severe damage as it made landfall on the peninsula near Port Charlotte. The hurricane continued to the north by northeast along the Peace River corridor, devastating the small cities of Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Cleveland, Fort Ogden, Nocatee, Arcadia, Zolfo Springs, Sebring, and Wauchula. Zolfo Springs was isolated for nearly two days as masses of large trees, power pole, power lines, transformers, and debris filled the streets. Wauchula sustained gusts to 147 mph (236 km/h), buildings in the downtown areas caved in onto Main Street. Ultimately, the storm passed through the central and eastern parts of the Orlando metropolitan area, still carrying winds gusting up to 106 mph (171 km/h). Interestingly, the city of Winter Park, north of Orlando, also sustained considerable damage since its many old, large oak trees had not experienced high winds. Falling trees tore down power utilities, smashed cars, and their huge roots lifted underground water and sewer utilities.
Damage in the state totaled to over $13 billion (2004 USD). Charley initially was expected to hit further north in Tampa, and caught many Floridians off-guard due to a sudden change in the storm's track as it approached the state. Throughout the United States, Charley caused 10 deaths and $15.4 billion in damage (2004 USD), making Charley the second costliest hurricane in United States history at the time (it has since dropped to 7th). Charley was a compact, fast-moving storm, which limited the scope and severity of the damage. Although mitigation and restoration was promised by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the poor communities of Hardee and DeSoto counties during town meetings, the agency did not pass the cursory planning stages, and the promised reconstruction and compensation never happened.
Famous quotes containing the words hurricane and/or charley:
“Staid middle age loves the hurricane passions of opera.”
—Mason Cooley (b. 1927)
“Twenty years ago I wanted to move to a nice place so our Charley would grow up a nice boy and learn a profession. But instead we live in a jungle, so he can only be a wild animal. Dyou think I picked the East Side like Columbus picked America?”
—Abraham Polonsky (b. 1910)