Hurricane Charley

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On August 4, 2004, a tropical wave developed off the coast of Africa. In the days to come, it strengthened from a tropical depression to a tropical storm. This storm was never really thought to have developed into a hurricane because of its size. According to an article from the NY Times, “A ferocious hurricane packing winds of 145 mph ripped into Florida’s west coast on Friday, leaving a half million people without power, flipping roofs off houses, blowing out hospital windows, and peeling brick walls from their frames.” (Dewan). Florida had not seen a storm cause this much damage since hurricane Andrew in 1992. No one realized Hurricane Charley would soon be considered a catastrophic category 4 hurricane that would, on August 13, 2004, catch everybody in its path by surprise because it wobbled at the last minute, and hit an area that was not prepared for a storm of this magnitude.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began monitoring a tropical wave off the coast of Africa on August 4, 2004. On August 9, the storm began rapidly strengthening over the Atlantic Ocean and formed a depression in the Caribbean Sea turning into Tropical Storm Charley on August 10. Within 24 hours Charley became a hurricane and was a category 2 when it hit Cuba. After it hit Cuba it began strengthening, the eye became smaller and it increased speed. Therefore, the storm became more organized.

As it entered the Dry Tortugas, Charley entered a trough that pulled the storm north-northeastward and it picked up speed and the barometric pressure decreased. As described by the Meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center ‘Just three hours later, Charley’s maximum winds had increased to Category 4 strength of 125 kt.’ (Pasch). After the storm swept through Florida, it continued its track to South Carolina where it briefly re-intensified. In the days to come, the storm began making headlines up and down the east coast.

Hurricane Charley was never expected to be as strong as it was. It was initially only predicted to be a category 2 storm. The state of Florida was not prepared for a 145-mph hurricane coming in from the West coast and raging through central Florida. Not only did Charley strengthen at the last minute, it veered to the right of the path that was originally projected bringing it through Punta Gorda instead of Tampa. Punta Gorda is a small community which is comprised mainly of mobile home communities. With the storm initially being predicted to hit Tampa, the residents were not completely prepared for the storm, neither were the cities employees.

In the words of a CBS news reporter, ‘As an airplane hangar at the Charlotte County airport flew apart around him and his wife, ‘it sounded like a calypso band gone crazy,” said Jim Morgan.” (Shetty). After making landfall, the storm gained speed as it neared Orlando and began racing up the east coast with tornado watches issued for the entire central Florida area. Tornadoes ripped apart homes and businesses throughout Charley’s path. As stated by CBS News Anchor, Dan Rather, this storm was about to take the same path as Hurricane Donna in 1960 who took a similar turn and ripped through the east coast all the way to New England.

Before the storm made landfall, a reporter, Gary Coronado, and his photographer decided to stay in Fort Myers and weather out the storm. They found themselves in the middle of a natural disaster. A dangerous category 4 storm had made a turn which put them almost where the storm would make landfall. Wondering whether they should evacuate with the others, or weather out the storm, they made the decision to stay longer than they should have because they wanted to talk to the people who stayed to ride out the storm.

In his story, he describes the complacency that people had regarding the evacuation orders. Coronado stated in his story ‘At first, the island was remarkably peaceful. Most of the people on the beach and by the pier were joking, and nearly all of them were drinking beer … and I thought, ‘Man, if this thing hits hard, there’s going to be a whole lot of drunk people trying to deal with it.” (19) The locals did not seem to be worried about the storm until the path changed.

The reporter and his photographer made the decision to leave shortly after they found out about the change in the storms’ path. As they were driving, they saw some people trying to walk down the street with their belongings and decided to stop and help them safely leave. As they were evacuating, winds started to pick up and they decided to turn around and find another hotel that would be safer than the one they were in previously.

Shortly after Charley hit Punta Gorda, the Emergency Operations Center declared a state of disaster. Thanks to this disaster, Punta Gorda ended up looking like a suburban wasteland with fallen trees, downed power lines and homes that were destroyed. The Director of Parks and Recreation, Laura Kleiss Hoeft, used her resources to contact whomever she needed to get the help from any source that was reachable. Cell phone service and communications were scarce, but all available resources that were needed to help in the aftermath were contacted to report to duty.

According to Dustin Daniels, ‘Nevertheless, within hours, Port Charlotte would be overflowing with thousands of relief workers–police, fire, National Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Red Cross, Salvation Army and more than 8,000 power and light personnel. They all needed to be housed and fed.’ (Daniel). The County Sports Complex and Recreation center became the headquarters for FEMA and other officials. The libraries were opened-up as a communication point where people could get word to their families that they were ok.

The department of parks and recreation worked with the people who had lost their homes to find them shelter and organized the entire city while FEMA, the power companies, and other government agencies were trying to restore power and provide meals for those in need. Working closely with the federal and state officials, the department of parks and recreation proved to be a very much needed resource to help with the ongoing relief efforts.

The wrath of Charley wreaked havoc with Florida’s west coast and ripped through Central Florida as a very powerful category 4 storm with sustained winds of 145 mph and a 15-foot storm surge to follow. The storm made landfall in Port Charlotte ripping off roofs, tearing down power lines and trees. It then continued to race across the state through Orlando as a strong hurricane with sustained wind of 90 mph causing $1.4 billion in damage and over a half million people were without power.

Sheila Dewan from the NY Times reported “Schools and airports were closed and even Walt Disney World and the Kennedy Space Center were closed. Tornado warnings were issued for south-central Florida, and the storm drenched ground already saturated by recent rains, increasing the risk of floods. At the request of Gov. Jeb Bush, President Bush declared the region a federal disaster area.” (Dewan). This storm raged on through the Carolinas and all the way into Maine as a tropical depression.

Across the state of Florida, homes and businesses were destroyed, power outages were vast and people living in the more remote areas had to wait days for help to come. President Bush sent in more than 5,000 National Guard troops after he had estimated the damage to be almost as large as hurricane Andrew. This storm killed more than 60 people while others were without power for weeks and even months.

Residents were forced to leave their homes to seek shelter and many had to leave their pets behind. The NY Times reports, “In Punta Gorda on Charlotte Harbor, Susan Evans decided not to leave her 1920’s wood-framed house despite a mandatory evacuation in her area.” (Dewan). Many others did the same and will live to regret it. Even though some people decided to stay, thousands of people took the warning seriously and evacuated to shelters that were provided to them.

While I was only four years old when hurricane Charley came through here, I can still remember the front door blowing open and my uncle had to put the recliner in front of it to keep it closed. I also remember being without power and running water for a week. An unpredictable storm turned out to be not only damaging, but eye-opening. The meteorologists now have a better understanding of how dangerous unpredictable these storms can be. Throughout the entire state of Florida, a sense of urgency is now in place when any tropical storm is impending. My family and I, along with many other Florida residents have learned that complacency is not the way to handle any storm. Everyone should always be prepared.

Works Cited

  1. Daniel, Dustin L. ‘Looking into the Eye of the Storm.’ MasterFILE Complete. Parks and Recreation, Nov. 2004. Web. Accessed 05 Oct. 2018.
  2. Dewan, Shaila K. ‘HURRICANE CHARLEY: THE OVERVIEW; Hurricane Rips Path of Damage Across Florida.’ The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 Aug. 2004. Web. Accessed 06 Oct. 2018.
  3. Miller, Kimberly. ‘Caught in the Storm.’ MEAN SEASON Florida’s Hurricanes of 2004. Ed. Jan Tuckwood. Palm Beach: Longstreet, 2004. 17+. Print.
  4. Pasch, Richard J., Daniel P. Brown, and Eric S. Blake. ‘Tropical Cyclone Report.’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. US Department of Commerce, 18 Oct. 2004. Web. Accessed 28 Sept. 2018. pp.1-5
  5. Shetty, Raksha. ‘Hurricane Charley Comes Ashore.’ CBS News. CBS Interactive, 14 Aug. 2004. Web. Accessed 07 Oct. 2018.

Cite this paper

Hurricane Charley. (2021, Mar 22). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/hurricane-charley/

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