Florida's Hurricane Train (October 2004)


Hurricane Charley

The eye of the worst hurricane to hit Florida in 12 years passed directly over and through Charlotte County, Florida, Friday, August 13, 2004 Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte were flattened. (radar image at right).

Thousands were left homeless, Charlotte County Emergency Management Director Wayne Sallade reported.

The Category 4 storm was stronger than expected when the eye reached Charlotte Harbor, punishing the coastal communities with winds up to 145 miles per hour and storm surge of 13 to 15 feet.

Hurricane Charley damaged or destroyed more than half the homes in Charlotte County, according to estimates. 31 mobile home parks in Charlotte County that sustained major damage.

The American Red Cross estimated about one in three homes in the county - 26,000- was destroyed or had major damage, including mobile homes. Approximately 10,000 were destroyed, and 16,000 had major damage.

Red Cross figures show damage levels comparable with what was reported in rural DeSoto and Hardee counties, where Hurricane Charley moved after leaving Charlotte County.

Charley resulted in 27 confirmed deaths in Florida. Estimated damage, insured and uninsured, was $14 billion. 21 shelters were opened in DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Lee, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole and Volusia counties. 2,315 people needed to use those shelters. Approximately 985,000 people were without power.

By the time Charley had passed through, 25 Florida counties were declared disaster areas by federal officials. The Federal Emergency Management Agency needed to request catastrophic housing for 10,000 people.

250,000 structures in Lee County sustained damage.

Hurricane Frances

Hurricane Frances was another monster. It made landfall in Florida on Sunday, September 5th. Crawling along at only 7 mph, the storm seemed like it lasted forever over each community it battered. Frances was so enormous that its battering impacts simultaneously affected the Keys and points north into Georgia, as you can see in the radar image (image at left). Frances wiped out power in the state to the extent that about 5 million people in Florida needed to wait at least a week for power to be restored after Frances. She hit the east coast with 105 mph winds, and caused18 deaths in Florida and Georgia (27 killed in SW Florida in August due to the 145 mph Charley). The ferocity of the storm caused $10 billion in insured and uninsured damage. 57 of 67 counties in Florida sustained damage.

Gainesville is located by the red star on the radar image.

 Ferocious Frances dumped 13 inches of rain in Alachua County. 95,000 customers lost power. She left 3 dead. "Thousands" of trees downed, leaving 843,750 cubic yards of tree debris. Wind gusts were up to 56 mph, and 542 houses were damaged.


Hurricane Ivan

Ivan made landfall in Florida on Wednesday, September 15th.

Ivan left Alachua County untouched. Instead, Ivan unleashed most of its Category 3 fury on the Florida Panhandle, after early predictions showed a path running through the middle of the peninsula (at right, see predicted path on the 9th).

Estimated damage, insured and uninsured, was $20 billion.

In all, 20 people were killed in Florida. Ivan caused a16-foot storm surge to overwhelm the panhandle. A major panhandle highway bridge on Interstate 10 collapsed due to the storm surge. Waves up to 25 feet high bashed the coast (a bouy off-shore measured a wave at 50 feet high).

It blasted the Gulf Coast with 130-mph winds, and spawned 6 tornadoes which blasted through several hospitals and hundreds of homes in the state.

About 345,000 homes lost power in the Panhandle.


Hurricane Jeanne

Hurricane Jeanne was the fourth hurricane to bash Florida in a six-week period when it made landfall on Saturday, September 25th. At no time in recorded history has this many hurricanes reached Florida in a single year.

Up to 45,100 customers lost power in Alachua County were I live.

29 roads were closed in the county, and19 sewer lift stations were knocked out..

Ivan dumped 5 inches of rain in Alachua County. Wind gusts up to 60 mph caused damage to 69 houses in the county, and created 675,000 cubic yards of tree debris. The five emergency shelters in the county accepted 843 residents.

Statewide, 6 people were killed. Estimated damage, insured and uninsured, was $12 billion.

The Florida east-central coast (approximately the same place that Frances hit 3 weeks earlier) was hit with as a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds. 1.5 million Floridians lost power.


Overall in Florida for the 4 hurricanes

 Overall, approximately one out of every five homes in Florida was damaged by the 2004 hurricane train. Insurance claims are expected to exceed 2 million claims (700,000 were filed in 1992 for Hurricane Andrew). From August 3rd through September 26th, five hurricanes and three tropical storms have hit the Southeast. Approximately $50 billion in insured and uninsured damage was caused by the 4 hurricanes.

 Not since Texas in 1886 has a state endured as many hurricanes as Florida in 2004. As I write this, there are two more months of hurricane season remaining in 2004. To the right is an image of hurricanes to the west of Florida, looming like a plague of locusts on September 20, 2004.

We've got "hurricane fatigue" in the Sunshine State…


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