Editor’s note: This story was first published on Aug. 13, 2019, the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Charley’s landfall.
Eighteen years ago, Hurricane Charley walloped Florida. It was the most devastating storm since Hurricane Andrew came ashore in 1992. Charley killed 15 people directly, caused an estimated $16 billion in property damage and left more than 1 million people without power.
Charley made landfall in the Punta Gorda area on Aug. 13, 2004, as a Category 4 hurricane. It struck the state just over 24 hours after Tropical Storm Bonnie made landfall in the Panhandle and was the first of four hurricanes to threaten the Sunshine State that year — Frances, Ivan and Jeanne followed.
At the time, the evacuation triggered by the storm was the largest in Tampa Bay area history. According to Tampa Bay Times archives, 1.9 million people in 11 counties were told to evacuate. More than 800,000 from Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco were instructed to leave town.
It seemed like Charley was headed right toward Tampa Bay, but a low-pressure cold front pushed the hurricane’s path to the east before it could get here. Tampa and St. Petersburg received less than an inch of rain; winds only reached 30 mph.
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Other parts of the state were not as fortunate. After Charley’s twist to the east, the storm destroyed thousands of homes in Charlotte and Lee counties, with some of the worst damage occurring in Punta Gorda.
Photos and front pages from Times archives capture the intensity and destruction of Hurricane Charley.
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Front pages tell Charley’s story
2022 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide
IT’S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.
RISING THREAT: Tampa Bay will flood. Here’s how to get ready.
DOUBLE-CHECK: Checklists for building all kinds of hurricane kits
PHONE IT IN: Use your smartphone to protect your data, documents and photos.
SELF-CARE: Protect your mental health during a hurricane.
• • •
Rising Threat: A special report on flood risk and climate change
PART 1: The Tampa Bay Times partnered with the National Hurricane Center for a revealing look at future storms.
PART 2: Even weak hurricanes can cause huge storm surges. Experts say people don’t understand the risk.
PART 3: Tampa Bay has huge flood risk. What should we do about it?
INTERACTIVE MAP: Search your Tampa Bay neighborhood to see the hurricane flood risk.