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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 tampabay.com/hurricane

PREPARE YOUR STUFF: Get your documents and your data ready for a storm

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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

What Michael taught the Panhandle and Tampa Bay

What the Panhandle’s top emergency officials learned from Michael

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