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Remembering Hurricane Charley’s destruction, 15 years ago today

Charley was the first of four hurricanes that battered Florida in 2004.
Sandy Agabedis reacts as she finds her business of ten years, The Blossom Shop, completely destroyed after Hurricane Charley tore through downtown Punta Gorda Friday, August 13, 2004. Agabedis said she lost over $30,000 worth of flowers not to mention the loss of her building, refrigerators, and the business itself. Times (2004)
Published Aug. 13
This National Hurricane Center satellite image shows Hurricane Charley south of Orlando, Fla., moving north-northeast, in an image time-stamped at 7:32 p.m. EDT, Friday, Aug. 13, 2004. (AP Photo/National Hurricane Center)

Fifteen years ago, Hurricane Charley walloped Florida. It was the most devastating storm since Hurricane Andrew touched down 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.

READ MORE: Latest hurricane forecast: seven hurricanes, two major storms.

At the time, the evacuation triggered by the storm was the largest in Tampa Bay area history. According to 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.

A sign on a Fort Myers, Fla., business expecting Hurricane Charley is shown Friday, Aug. 13, 2004. (AP Photo/The Fort Myers News-Press, Marc Beaudin)

It seemed like Charley was headed right toward Tampa Bay, but a low-pressure cold front pushed the hurricane’s path to the right. Tampa and St. Petersburg received less than an inch of rain; winds only reached 30 mph.

RELATED: Floridians shared their most unconventional hurricane tips

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.

An upscale home on Capitiva Island is framed by mounds of debris from a damaged home near Captiva Drive. The island was hit hard by Hurricane Charley's high winds. Many of the expensive homes can now be seen from the road since the island's vegetation was blown down by Charley's winds. Times (2004)
A request for help is shown in the backyard of a home in Osceola County, Fla., Thursday, Aug. 19, 2004. People living in the subdivision on Thursday were among the thousands of customers still without power following last week's storm. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Red Huber)
A moving and storage van lays on top of a station wagon in the East bound lane of State Road 528 in East Orange County, Fla., after crashing on a road slick from heavy rain from the outer bands of Hurricane Charley, Friday, Aug. 13, 2004. The East bound lane of SR 528 was closed for hours. Orange County Fire Rescue used the Jaws of Life to free the victems from the car. (AP Photo/Florida Today, Craig Rubadoux)
A family Bible was found resting in a tree outside a mobile home that was destroyed by Hurricane Charley. The mobile home was located along a rural stretch of US Highway 17, approximately six miles north of Punta Gorda, FL. The wind was blowing its pages back and forth and stopped a few times on this page in the book of Malachi. The illustration on the left is titled, "Jonah is cast into the sea." The page on the right is the the beginning of The New Testament. Times (2004)
Mitch Zeidan, owner of Mitch Mart on SR 44 in Inverness, updates his message he originally wrote before Hurricane Charley as he and a group of employees board up the store in preparation for Frances, the second storm in three weeks. Times (2004)

Front pages tell Charley’s story

The front page of the St. Petersburg Times for August 13, 2004, featuring coverage of Hurricane Charley.
The front page of the St. Petersburg Times for August 14, 2004, featuring coverage of Hurricane Charley.
The front page of the St. Petersburg Times for August 16, 2004, featuring coverage of Hurricane Charley. The storm killed 15 people directly, but in the days to follow 20 more indirect deaths were added to the count.
The front page of the St. Petersburg Times for August 17, 2004, featuring coverage of Hurricane Charley.

2019 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at

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PROTECT YOUR PETS: Your pets can’t get ready for a storm. That’s your job

NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter

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  1. A citrus grove in eastern Hillsborough County. [Times (2017)]
    The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture is predicting a 3.3 percent increase for the struggling industry.
  2. The A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway travels along the Atlantic Ocean in St. Johns County, north of St. Augustine.  DARON DEAN  |  VISIT FLORIDA
    The 27-year-old was in cardiac arrest when he was pulled from the ocean.
  3. The state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates there are about 4,000 bears here, with most living in wild areas like Big Cypress National Preserve or Ocala National Forest. CARLTON WARD JR.  |  National Geographic Image Collection
    Florida black bears don’t have to hibernate to avoid the cold, but they do go into a lethargic state because there is less food in the winter.
  4. Taiwan Blandin, who Polk County deputies say murdered one woman and sexually battered another in early October, was arrested Saturday morning following a carjacking in Atlanta. Polk County Sheriff's Office
    “Based on the felonies he’s racked up, he likely won’t spend another day on the street,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
  5. Traffic was diverted from the area for several hours and an investigation is underway. Courtesy of Virgin Trains USA via AP
    The woman was on the tracks at about 12:32 a.m Sunday when she was struck.
  6. The Maple Street Biscuit Company opened in April on the 600 block of Central Avenue. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
    The popular Jacksonville biscuit shop has recently opened a handful of Tampa Bay locations.
  7. Terry May, 47, of Deltona was arrested Thursday, accused of pouring boiling water on a 3-year-old boy, according to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. Volusia County Sheriff’s Office
    Deputies were notified after the boy’s day-care teachers noticed a burn mark on the child’s back and called an abuse hotline
  8. Emissions from cars and trucks are a major source of the greenhouse gases fueling climate change. An analysis by the New York Times found that air pollution from those sources has increased in the Tampa Bay area by 55 percent since 1990. [Times (2008)]
    Florida once had emissions inspections, but Jeb Bush ended them in 2000
  9. File art of a swamp buggy being serviced in 2014. A 7-year-old Florida girl was critically injured Saturday after she was thrown from a swamp buggy. Times files (2014)
    The girl was thrown from a swamp buggy and run over by its tire.
  10. Authorities respond to Town Center at Boca Raton, Sunday, in Boca Raton, Fla., as the mall had been placed on lockdown following reports of shots fired. (Andres Leiva/Palm Beach Post via AP) ANDRES LEIVA  |  AP
    Reports of possible shots at an upscale Florida mall Sunday sent panicked people running and triggered a lockdown for several hours.