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.
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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