TEN years! It’s been 10 years??? I cannot believe that 10 years have gone by since Hurricane Charley opened my eyes to something I never took seriously.
I will try to keep this from being the most horrible run-on story.
A “simple” account of my day, TEN years ago…today!
August 13, 2004. Was it a coincidence that it was a Friday the 13th? I don’t so much believe in that whole Friday the 13th thing, but do find it a bit funny that a day that shook the town happened to fall on one of those “days”.
~~~ Where was I? Combination of work (Publix #0266, Punta Gorda, FL) and home (Tobago St, Punta Gorda, FL (Deep Creek))
~~~ What was I doing? First, working (and panicking that I wouldn’t be able to get home because I had to cross bridges to get home) then at home watching, waiting, panicking, crying, disbelieving.
On that morning, I had to open the office at work (scheduled in at 6AM). I was so worried that they were going to decide to close the surrounding Publix’s too late and I wouldn’t be able to get home. See, either route home required me to cross a bridge. And I had learned that when winds reached 39 mph (sustained, I believe) that they closed bridges. And since we were expecting Tropical Storm winds, that was very likely to happen. At the time, Charley’s projected path had the Tampa Bay area as it’s target.
We opened the store before posted normal business hours for anyone who needed emergency items. I remember vividly waiting for the phone call from the “Big Wig” to tell my Store Manager to close it up and go home. 7AM came…no phone call. I answered all phone calls coming into the store so I would know if it was him or not, but not for sure if it was to close the store or to stay open cuz the conditions weren’t going to be bad enough to close. And with a chain as big as Publix, it takes a MAJOR even to close the store early. 8AM…no phone call. I kept telling my managers that I couldn’t get home if they closed the bridges. And neither could my Store and Assistant Store Managers. I don’t really know what I thought I was accomplishing by obsessing over the bridges. 9AM…no phone call. Then it happened, around 10:30AM, the phone rang. He asked for the Store Manager. The announcement was made! Close it up and go home. So my supervisor and I gathered all the money from the registers, headed to the cash office and closed up shop. We followed the safety procedures for preparing for bad weather like what we expected (Tropical Storm) and I was finally heading home around 11:45AM. I made it home around noon, where my parents, grandparents, and a friend of the family were already there checking weather reports. We also had two cats of friends’ of ours who were out of town. Berkley ended showing up shortly after me. He was at his store in Port Charlotte and came as soon as they finished their closing procedures. His parents were still in Connecticut on vacation. (Berkley and I had only gotten back to town from CT three days before the storm hit).
And there, we waited. My dad on the phone to his brother in Tampa. Asking him if he was prepared for what was about to happen. My mother and grandmother in the kitchen, making a lasagna so we had a hot meal to eat when the power went out. Because that’s what we were expecting, loss of power (only) and rain too. Me, in my bedroom, folding towels and laundry so that everything was clean and put away so it would be easy for when we were fumbling around in the dark needing…well…towels and underwear. HAHA
(Needless to say, that lasagna stayed in the oven until I think Monday, because no one thought about it)
I looked outside as it was getting darker and darker, the trees starting to show signs of significant wind increases. I had always heard about the eye of a hurricane and how in the center of the eye, the wind stops, you can see blue sky, and it is calm and serene…until the other edge of the eye. I thought to myself “wouldn’t it be cool to see the eye of the storm?” WHOOPS!!! An idea I now regret ever thinking.
It wasn’t long after that thought, that we got the word that Charley was taking a turn….for Charlotte Harbor. We weren’t right on the harbor, but we weren’t far either. Real quick, things got serious. Winds picked up, windows rattled, sliding glass doors started to wobble. A large portion of the main section of the house was sliding glass doors. I also had a set in my bedroom and my parents’ had a set in their bedroom as well.
My dad had everyone go in to the laundry room. Thank goodness we had a large laundry room. In there we had 7 adults and 2 cats (in a cat carrier). The volume of the winds were so loud. It almost like standing on the jetway while planes’ engines are running. I remember feeling the pressure in my ears as we just sat and waited. We could hear one of the screen doors slamming, slamming, slamming on the lanai. The interior door to the garage was rattling. Until now, I had forgotten just how loud it was.
After a little while, the noises seemed to slow down and it got a little lighter in the room. We didn’t really know where the storm was as we had lost power by this point and had no weather radio or anything (if it would have even worked, I don’t know). All of a sudden, my dad gets up and tells Berkley to come with him. They were going to go assess the situation and see if it was over. It wasn’t over, it was only half way done. We were on the edge of the eye of the storm. Not directly enough to see the clear skies before the other side. But enough to realize what was happening and we were then herded (yes, like cattle, lol) to the other side of the house to my parents’ bedroom. As we walked by the wall of sliding glass doors, I could see them almost rippling. (I’m pretty sure the only thing that saved them is the winds were blowing parallel to them instead of perpendicular). Up until now, we still had some cell service and I was keeping in touch with my sister who was in Port Charlotte.
Backyard video 2
Hurricane is over right? Yeah, guess not. video
Backyard video 3
(the videos should open in a new window. you might need to activate QuickTime Player)
There we all sat, in my parents’ bedroom as the winds picked up again, the sky darkened, and the slamming of the screen door started again. Only this time, everything was going the other direction. Still texting back and forth with my sister for a little bit. The last message I got was “our roof just blew off.” No more messages either way. I really started to freak out now. And here, we waited out the storm. As things started to slow again, my father stood at the threshold of the door, looking into the kitchen, living room, dining room, etc. and just watched the water coming in…shaking his head in disbelief. When he felt it was safe for everyone to leave the master bedroom, I walked into the kitchen. I walked through about 1-1/5″ of water. No windows broke, no doors busted loose. Where was it coming from?
It was just coming through the roof. We lost all shingles, tar, fascia, gutters, etc. The water was just coming through. It was in the fixtures and everything. I headed to my bedroom and feared the worst as the first side of the winds were directly hitting my sliding glass door. There was no damage. Funny enough, before the storm hit, I moved my new computer from by the slider into my closet. After, when I opened the closet door, there was a small leak…dripping directly onto the computer tower.
Quickly, I moved anything I needed to and headed to check on Berkley’s parents house, just outside the historic district of Punta Gorda (aka…CHARLOTTE HARBOR). They have an old two-story house (50ish years, at this point maybe?). I was expecting the worst. As we drove out of Deep Creek, I felt like I was in one of those TV commercials where you see everyone staring at the camera just after a disaster. Neighbors were outside, looking at the damage. The subdivision was flat. Trees down, electrical wires down, everything…down. It took us a few tries to get out of Deep Creek and into Punta Gorda. We ran into down power poles, trees blocking roads, and a closed bridge.
As we approached Berk’s neighborhood, there was a house with the upper level ripped off. The way it was positioned it looked like it was his house. Thankfully it was not (yet very unfortunate for that family). They had a few large trees in their yard that were broken and all over the driveway and yard. We couldn’t even pull into the driveway. We headed inside to see if there was any damage. Amazingly enough, there seemed to be just very minor things. You could see cracks tho where the house must have shifted. I bed that thing was rocking something fierce. Upstairs, in his bedroom, his rolling computer chair was in the center of the room (normally was at one side of his room). So strange.
We headed back to my house. Every one was going to my brother’s house in North Port for the night. He had power (hot water and AC). That would be my home for the next 3.5 months.
I have never forgotten any details of that day. Everyone is quick to tell their Charley story whenever it comes up. However, I had forgotten the emotions.
Still can’t believe it’s been 10 years.
Berk’s parents’ house after he was able to chop up the downed tree branches and get them to the road.
Our back yard at our parents’ house. This tree used to be standing.
On I-75 south
On I-75 south
Inside Berk’s parents house. Shifted much?
Rolled up like a tin can. Roof Berk’s dad’s shed.
Berk’s parents’ house
Berk’s parents’ house
Our front yard at my parents’ house.
The palm tree, before it finally gave in to the winds.
I know that we were very fortunate but it still shook up my world a little bit.
Where were YOU, ten years ago, today?