TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - It was back on August 13, 2004 when Hurricane Charley slammed into Florida – the first of four storms to batter the state that year.
Before landfall, much of the discussion about Charley’s likely path focused on the Tampa Bay area, a potentially worst-case scenario for the region. Nearly 400,000 Bay Area residents were ordered to evacuate in what was, at the time, the largest evacuation order in Pinellas County history.
The storm rapidly gained strength, jumping from a Category 2 storm to a powerful Category 4 in just a few hours. But as the storm approached the coast, forecasters warned that Port Charlotte – not Tampa – was its likely destination, giving residents of Southwest Florida little time to prepare for a direct hit, even though they had been well inside the forecast cone.
Charley’s eye came ashore near the island of Cayo Costa with 150-mph winds, then hit the mainland an hour later, bringing 145-mph winds to Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte.
The storm continued to spin northeast across the state, pounding inland Polk County and the Orlando area, where many Bay Area evacuees had fled to escape the storm. It eventually reemerged in the Atlantic and made a final, weaker landfall in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
In all, Charley was blamed for 10 deaths in the U.S., along with $16.9-billion in damage to residential property, making it the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history at the time.
Later that year, hurricanes Frances and Jeanne would cross Florida from the east. The tracks of all three storms converged in Polk County.
Before the season ended, Hurricane Ivan roared through the Panhandle as a Category 3 storm, becoming the fourth hurricane to hit Florida that year.