Hurricane Charley was the first of four major hurricanes to impact the state of Florida in 2004. The other storms were Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. Charley existed during the timeframe of August 9 to August 15 during the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. It peaked at a category 4 hurricane and had sustained winds at 150 mph during its peak force. Upon making landfall in Florida, Hurricane Charley was the strongest hurricane to hit the United States since the historic Hurricane Andrew storm hit Florida way back in 1992. Hurricane Charley was also the strong hurricane to hit the western side of the state of Florida since Hurricane Donna back in 1960.
Upon creation, Hurricane Charley crossed through the Caribbean Sea and then made landfall in Cuba as a category 3 storm. Cuba sustained significant damage as well as a handful of deaths. When Hurricane Charley neared Florida, many on the western coast of the state assume the storm would make landfall in or near the Tampa region (in fact, many Tampa residents fled the area and moved inland toward the Central Florida region which then got hit by the storm!), but the storm moved inland quicker further south near the southwest region of the state. The storm hit the northern tip of Captiva Island (and the southern tip of North Captiva Island) with sustained winds of 150 mph. As the storm moved inland, Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte areas received significant damage from the ferocious storm.
Hurricane Charley moved up the state and hit Orlando and Central Florida with winds over 100 mph. It was the most powerful storm to hit Orlando in years. Many parts of Orlando sustained significant damage including the Orlando International Airport. After Central Florida, the storm moved east and exited the state near Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach.
The name Charley was retired by the National Hurricane Center as a result of the 2004 storm.
Hurricane Charley Timeline
- August 4, 2004: Charley begins as a tropical wave off the west coast of Africa.
- August 9, 2004: Charley becomes a Tropical Depression near the island of Grenada.
- August 10, 2004: Charley strengthens in the Caribbean Sea.
- August 11, 2004: Charley is designated as a Category 1 hurricane with a location south of Jamaica.
- August 12, 2004: Hurricane Charley is moving northwest as it passes within 40 miles of Jamaica. As the storm passes Grand Cayman, Hurricane Charley is upgraded to a Category 2 storm, then a Category 3 storm as it approaches Cuba.
- August 13, 2004: Hurricane Charley begins heading north-northeast toward the southwest region of Florida. Charley passes over the Dry Tortugas with winds of roughly 110 mph. From there, Charley intensified to Category 4 status as it approaches Florida. Charley makes landfall near Captiva Island and Cayo Costa Island in Southwest Florida with 150 mph winds. An hour later, Hurricane Charley strikes Punta Gorda with 145 mph winds before passing through Port Charlotte.
- August 14, 2004: Now landfall, Charley is weakened but approaching Orlando with 85 mph winds. Gusts of up to 106 mph were recorded at the Orlando International Airport. After hitting the Central Florida region, Charley exits the state near New Smyrna Beach as a category 1 hurricane. The storm moves north and made final landfall as a hurricane near North Myrtle Beach with winds of 75 mph.
- August 15, 2004: The storm moves back out to the Atlantic and heads toward Massachusetts before getting absorbed into another front.
The following image from NASA shows Hurricane Charley just south of Cuba on August 11, 2004:
The following image shows Hurricane Charley as it approaches Florida on August 13, 2004 just before reaching category 4 status.
Hurricane Charley Damages
Hurricane Charley was a deadly storm that caused incredible damage. In the state of Florida, Charley caused nine deaths (as well as up to 20 indirect fatalities). Property damage was estimated to be over $15 billion and agriculture damages were over $275 million. Thankfully, Hurricane Charley was a fast storm and a relatively small size meaning the damage was relatively contained given how powerful the storm was. The worst damage in the state occurred in and around Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda. Many buildings, motor homes and mobile homes were destroyed from the storm.
The 2004 Hurricane Season
The 2004 Atlantic hurricane season was unique and especially destructive. For residents in the state of Florida, it’s a hurricane season that will be remembered for a lifetime. While there were nine hurricanes during the season, most remember the hurricane season for the string of four hurricanes that approached and impacted the state of Florida.
The string of storms began with Hurricane Charley which made landfall on august 13 as a category 4 storm near Punta Gorda, Florida. Then, Hurricane Frances made landfall in the state of Florida at Hutchinson Island on September 5. Around the same time, Hurricane Ivan entered the Gulf of Mexico on September 14 as a category 5 storm. The storm weakened as it approached the Florida panhandle and eventually made landfall at Gulf Shores, Alabama with winds of 120 mph. Lastly, Hurricane Jeanne also made landfall around Hutchinson Island, Florida on September 26. Of the storms, Hurricane Ivan was was the deadliest and costliest storm. It hit several Caribbean countries as a category 5 storm before causing significant damage to both Alabama and Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.
Frequently Asked Questions
What strength was Hurricane Charley?
Charley was a category 4 hurricane with winds up to 145 mph when it hit the state of Florida near the Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte area of Southwest Florida. When Charley hit Orlando later, the storm had weakened and had winds of roughly 85 mph, however wind gusts of up to 105 mph were reported at the Orlando International Airport.
Where did Hurricane Charley make landfall?
Hurricane Charley first hit the islands of Cayo Costa and Captiva off the coast of Florida before smashing into Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte.
When was Hurricane Charley?
Hurricane Charley became a hurricane on August 11, 2004. Charley made landfall in Florida two days later.