Hurricane season 2004 came roaring into existence on the afternoon of August 13, 2004, a Friday the 13th no less, with Hurricane Charley storming ashore near Charlotte Harbor near Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda and moving up the Peace River.
He then tore north-northeast through the middle of Florida; through Orlando and continuing on its way to Jacksonville and then out onto the Atlantic Coast.
Usually those trying to escape the path of the storm head inland. This time, that wasn't the place to be.
This experience was quite a "welcome" for me, as I had just moved to Florida June 28, 2004. A short 6 weeks later all heck broke loose to begin one of the more active 'cane seasons in Florida history!
There was considerable widespread major damage caused by Charley as he exploded from a “Cat 3” to a “Cat 4” storm very quickly.
This strengthening of the storm took place in about an hour as I was listening to the forecasts and conditions on the radio.
As the storm moved inland the weather in Sarasota was cloudy, rainy and windy. The strongest wind gust may have been about 60 m.p.h. but I was sitting outside on a Lanai watching the weather. In the Sarasota area it appeared to me as a heavier than normal thunderstorm.
For the record: Charley was the strongest storm to hit the U.S. since Andrew tore through the Miami and southeast Florida region twelve years earlier.
Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, which are an hour south of Sarasota, took a direct hit from Charley and were disaster areas for sure; however the Sarasota area was spared the brunt of Charley, receiving only minor damage. I don’t even recall the power going out in Sarasota. It had been a close call for us.
But in Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, it was a different story as Charley left parts of those areas looking like bombed out World War II villages in Europe. Trees were down or bent over, light poles on the Interstate bent in half, the roofs of homes were blown off. It was devastation.
On August 24, 2004 another tropical wave off the coast of Africa developed into a tropical depression. As it slowly headed west Floridians kept their eyes on it and kept asking, “Can it happen again, so soon after Charley?” The answer turned out to be yes.
Three weeks after Charley, a lady named Frances blew through Florida; Frances had had a full ten days to grow and became a Category 4 on August 28, 2004.
The pictures on this page are of the aftermath of Frances at Nokomis Beach on Casey Key.
Having weakened while roaring through the Bahamas, Frances came ashore on the southeast coast of Florida as a stable Category 2 hurricane at 1 a.m. on September 5, quickly picked up speed and headed north northwest.
Talk about being on edge. Frances looked like she was heading right for Sarasota. Uh oh! We were lucky with Charley, maybe not so lucky with Frances. Only time would tell.
Sarasota weather history shows that it had not taken a direct hit since record keeping began in 1871. Was that fact about to change?
As Frances raced northwest across the peninsula it emerged out over the Gulf of Mexico, north of Sarasota near Tampa. After a somewhat short time over water, Frances came ashore again near St. Marks, Florida and moved inland and weakened but left heavy rainfall in its wake.
Florida and Sarasota would have two more to deal with
before this more active than usual season would come to an end: Ivan on
September 16, 2004 and Jeanne on September 26, 2004.
By this time I was thinking to myself; Mother Nature must be having a clearance sale on these storms this year because we’re getting them like clockwork every two weeks.
You couldn’t catch your breath! Or stop your head from spinning!
Fortunately, Sarasota was spared from any major destruction in 2004 and 2005, another over active season. The dire forecast for 2006 never materialized as not one hurricane hit the continental U.S. that year.
And neither 2007, 2008 nor 2009 saw much in the way of activity nor
anywhere near predictions of disastrous seasons. Sarasota remained hurricane free during 2010 and through 2016. North Florida was grazed by a Category 1 in early September, 2016. It was the first to hit the state in more than 10 years.