Hurricane Charley was a Category 4 hurricane when it made landfall near Cayo Costa, just north of Captiva, on the southwest coast of Florida on August 13, 2004. Serious damage occurred inland as the hurricane moved northeastward across the state. In the U.S., Charley was directly responsible for ten deaths and an estimated $15 billion in damage. That ranks Charley as the fourth costliest hurricane on record in the U.S. (based on unadjusted dollars) according to the National Hurricane Center’s “Deadliest, Costliest, and Most Intense United States Tropical Cyclones” (DCMI) publication.
A few facts on Charley according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FLDEM): 100,000 people sheltered by the American Red Cross in the first couple of weeks of the disaster; 182,000 homes inspected to determine eligibility for FEMA housing assistance; 273,000 individuals who registered for state and federal assistance in Florida; and 18 million cubic yards of debris created by Charley. The personal impacts on lives of many Floridians are hard to quantify.
Charley was the first of four hurricanes to impact Florida within 44 days in 2004. The four storms caused an estimated $45 billion in total damages. Each storm is still ranked among the top ten costliest hurricanes in the U.S., according to the NHC’s DCMI.
According to a Fact Sheet released by the FLDEM, former FLDEM Director Craig Fugate (currently the FEMA Administrator) established “Charlie Command” immediately after Hurricane Charley. “This unified command system – used for the first time in Florida – merged state and federal response teams to solve problems together. The unified approach led to a faster and more agile response and was pivotal to the success to subsequent statewide responses for Frances, Ivan and Jeanne.”
Governor Charlie Crist in Punta Gorda today praised Florida’s emergency managers, first responders and volunteer agencies for their support for Florida families and communities devastated by the record breaking 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons. While I certainly hope we don’t have to test the response and recovery system again this year, today is another reminder for all us to prepare in case we do experience another hurricane this year.