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.