Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hurricane Charley in Pics, 10 Years Later

Hurricane Charley rocked Florida’s southwestern coast ten years ago today with 150 mph winds, making it the strongest hurricane to hit the United States in over a decade. Still one of the top 10 most costliest hurricanes in US History, this megastorm caused over $15 billion in damage, leveling neighborhoods and forever altering Florida’s coastal landscape.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

A Sitting Duck
Florida’s peninsula juts out between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico with a big fat ‘X’ painted over it as a landing zone for warm water storms. Although the proverbial hurricane state has faired well in recent years, Hurricane Charley made a lasting impact, making landfall on Florida’s southwestern coast and quickly blanketing the entire state. 

Image source: AccuWeather

Fast Motion
In a sudden change of course, Charley hit nearly 100 miles south of what was anticipated, taking many unexpected (and unprepared) people by surprise. As Juvenile’s Slow Motion topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart, Charley ripped through Captiva Island and the coastal towns of Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte with fierce 150 mph winds.

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Book Light, Anyone?
Already on high alert due to Tropical Storm Bonnie ravaging Florida’s northwestern coast not even 24 hours prior to Charley, approximately 1.42 million people had evacuated their homes. Nearly 50,000 residents were placed in shelters across the state to ride out the tumultuous beginning of the 2004 hurricane season.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Survey Says
After Charley made its way through central Florida and dissipated along the coast of New England, the survey of damage began. Areas of Punta Gorda were virtually unrecognizable, looking as if someone chewed them up and spit them out.

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Debris Stew
On the same day popular chef Julia Child passed away, Hurricane Charley whipped up a masterful stew of trees, power lines, power poles, transformers and other debris and gave one heaping serving to those in its path. Producing only 4-6 inches of rain during its tenure in Florida, Charley made up for his thriftiness by spawning several tornados.

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School’s Out
Public schools in the path of the hurricane were closed for weeks following Charley’s aftermath. All 59 schools in central Florida’s Osceola County were reported damaged. The extended summer vacation gave this little girl more time to enjoy her new bedroom view.

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Orange You Sad?
Charley’s agricultural impact was astronomical in Cuba and Florida. The agricultural losses to Florida’s citrus crop alone reached upwards of $200 million. Local businesses were leveled, very much like this liquor store (which seemingly may just be someone’s emergency hurricane preparation kit).

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You Loot, They Shoot
The fast-moving storm crossed Florida’s peninsula in seven hours leaving 2 million homes without power. Some areas were not restored for weeks. Desperate people do desperate things, and this man was everything but subtle in his way of letting looters know that he doesn’t mess around.

Image source: US Geological Survey

Florida Coast Gets a Makeover
At least 11,000 homes were severely damaged or destroyed, 27,000 roofs needed replacing, and three hospitals were taken down in Florida; but one irreparable alteration was that of its coastline. The coastline is noticeably different as the high winds and pelting gulf waters pummeled the shoreline, as seen here at North Captiva Island.

Image source: Tampa Bay Times

Back and Better Than Ever
Fifteen people met their fate at the hands of Hurricane Charley. President George W. Bush declared Florida a federal disaster area and millions of dollars in aid was soon released to the battered state. The community began putting back together the pieces, such as Punta Gorda’s Professional Center, which was replaced by modern retail shops, office space, and restaurants. 

The name ‘Charley’ will forever go down in infamy, as it has no other choice. Due to its severity, the World Meteorological Organization retired the name from its list of tropical cyclone names in 2005.

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