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August 13, 2004

Hello, Hurricane Charley.


We held out. It wasn't supposed to hit us. But by the time it hit Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda, there was one guy on the television saying that he thought it wasn't going to hit Tampa but instead turn inland and head up to Orlando. He was hours ahead of the rest of them - he said that about noon, I remember. The rest of the weather forecasters were insisting the storm was going to hit Tampa. By 2pm, the storm had turned and headed for Orlando.

By then, it was too late. We couldn't escape north or east because there were tornadoes everywhere and Charley was heading northeast. We couldn't go west or south into the hurricane. Hell, we lived on the central Florida evacuation route. So, we decided to stay put. At 2:35pm came the mandatory evacuation order.

It came ashore at Punta Gorda and a year later my friend Jason at Disney said that they'd ridden out the storm in his family's house, only to come out and find most of the house - and the town - leveled. My cousins down there had $80k of damage done to their $100k house while they were in it, but they were not harmed.

By 6pm, it was down from CAT4 to CAT2.

By 7:25pm, the eye was 30 miles south of us and the wind was steadily rising.

By 7:45pm, I'd shut off the computer and headed back with Pat and the cats away from all of the glass windows.

Of about 200 homes, we were one of about 10 that still had their carport. Most of the homes in my neighborhood had intense structural damage, but we were saved, probably because of the upgrades I'd done on the place, not to mention the brand new front room. Every single house on my street lost its front room except me and the house next door and I believe that was simply due to the odd angle of our homes.

What I remember most was the house vibrating and rocking in the wind.

Disney's Epcot Spaceship Earth is rated for 111mph winds. Charley was coming in at 120mph winds. Lots of people were speculating if they'd see the great ball roll, but it stayed put!

Two weeks later, Hurricane Frances. Then, two weeks later, Hurricane Ivan. Then, a few weeks after that, Hurricane Jean.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 14th, 2011 01:04 am (UTC)
We didn't have power for two weeks after... one of those. I somehow never can remember their names. (Andrew. That's the one that sticks with me. Felt like I was in the middle of the apocalypse after that one.)

They didn't hit THAT hard here that I remember (our normal afternoon thunderstorms we've been getting have seemed worse to me, although those only go on for an hour or so), but G'ville and areas around were SO not ready for anything like that. Or maybe I should say the trees weren't.
Aug. 14th, 2011 01:06 am (UTC)
You guys had *soooo* many tornadoes that it was crazy. Well, Wilwood to Ocala all the way up to G'ville. Nuts.

Yeah, you survived Andrew *in* Miami. I'd say everything else pales in comparison---
Aug. 14th, 2011 01:24 am (UTC)
I THINK I may have still been in England when the first one hit. I was back in time for the second two. And I'd just broken up with someone before going to England, and K and I had just started dating, and we had a house-full of refugees... I was definitely distracted at the time!

I wasn't actually IN Miami when Andrew hit. I was on vacation in GA. I was on the phone with my ex-husband AS it was hitting, which was a bit surreal. (And he fell asleep on me. :-p I thought the phones were out the next morning, but no, I just had to wait for him to wake and hang it up. Ever told someone they could sleep through a hurricane? Living proof!) I spent the whole night awake watching it on TV.

Anyway, I flew back in a couple of days later after spending hours on the phone DEMANDING someone get me on a flight home. (I was booked on Continental, who canceled all flights for the week. I think I ended up on Delta.) Flying over it all was just surreal. It looked like we'd been nuked.

I know I'd have been terrified, but part of me really wishes I'd been there for the actual storm. (The part that knows we escaped with only moderate damage.) A direct hit from a Cat 5 is an incredible experience in all meanings of the word. The weeks after felt like living in a book (I kept thinking of Alas, Babylon) and driving around and seeing the damage was just... some of it just didn't seem possible. (A giant barge in someone's back yard, boards driven through palm trees, steel beams bent into "U" shapes... I believe all of the funky bent palm trees at Universal's Seuss Island all came from Miami.) But it's most definitely something I don't want to go through again!

Edit: Realizing my icon isn't totally accurate, especially after explaining above that I actually wasn't there, but living through the aftermath I think still gives me "no shit, there I was" story rights. ;-)

Edited at 2011-08-14 01:26 am (UTC)
Aug. 14th, 2011 01:26 am (UTC)
You were!! I was just reading my 8/13 entries and your comments are from the UK!!
Aug. 14th, 2011 01:28 am (UTC)
I think "living in a warzone" definitely counts. I'm surprised you were able to get a flight in - that was some power moving there.
Aug. 14th, 2011 01:41 am (UTC)
I'm amazed I got home. My dad had already been trying for hours when I took over. I can be VERY persistent when I want to be. I seem to remember telling that agent she'd have to flat-out hang up on me if she wanted me off the phone before she found me a flight.

I bought a GIANT duffel bag in GA and filled it with supplies - food, batteries, lanterns, all of that. I think it weighed 150+ pounds when I checked it and they didn't say a word. My FIL somehow scored a generator from some guy selling them out of the back of a truck (you just didn't ask) and my ex's cousin (we were ALL living in my ex's parents' huge house) was a hunter and had a FULL deep-freeze of food we had to eat before it went bad. We had a ton of damage, but overall, we were VERY lucky. Our worst problems were cold showers, waiting in line for an hour or more for gas (when there was any) and having to spend $20+ for small cases of bottled water from guys on street corners.

Probably the reason I remember the experience as more "interesting and exciting" than "traumatic."
Aug. 14th, 2011 02:00 am (UTC)
Oh yeah, I'd forgotten how many trees fell...
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )