Hurricane Charley

Hurricane Charley
Category 4 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Charley 2004-08-13 1815Z.png
Hurricane Charley near peak intensity shortly before landfall in Florida on August 13
FormedAugust 9, 2004
DissipatedAugust 15, 2004
(Extratropical after August 14)
Highest winds1-minute sustained: 150 mph (240 km/h)
Lowest pressure941 mbar (hPa); 27.79 inHg
Fatalities15 direct, 20 indirect
Damage$16.9 billion (2004 USD)
Areas affectedJamaica, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina
Part of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Charley was the first of four individual hurricanes to impact or strike Florida during 2004, along with Frances, Ivan and Jeanne, as well as one of the strongest hurricanes ever to strike the United States. It was the third named storm, the second hurricane, and the second major hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. Charley lasted from August 9 to 15, and at its peak intensity it attained 150 mph (240 km/h) winds, making it a strong Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. It made landfall in Southwest Florida at maximum strength, making it the strongest hurricane to hit the United States since Hurricane Andrew struck Florida in 1992 and the strongest hurricane to hit southwest Florida since Hurricane Donna in 1960.

After moving slowly through the Caribbean Sea, Charley crossed Cuba on Friday, August 13 as a Category 3 hurricane, causing heavy damage and four deaths. That same day, it crossed over the Dry Tortugas, just 22 hours after Tropical Storm Bonnie had struck northwestern Florida. It was the first time in history that two tropical cyclones struck the same state in a 24-hour period.[1]At its peak intensity of 150 mph (240 km/h), Hurricane Charley struck the northern tip of Captiva Island and the southern tip of North Captiva Island, before crossing over Bokeelia causing severe damage.[2] Charley then continued to produce severe damage as it made landfall on the peninsula in Punta Gorda. It continued to the north-northeast along the Peace River corridor, devastating Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Cleveland, Fort Ogden, Nocatee, Arcadia, Zolfo Springs, Sebring, and Wauchula. Zolfo Springs was isolated for nearly two days as masses of large trees, power poles, power lines, transformers, and debris filled the streets. Wauchula sustained gusts to 147 mph (237 km/h); buildings in the downtown areas caved onto Main Street. Ultimately, the storm passed through the central and eastern parts of the Orlando metropolitan area, still carrying winds gusting up to 106 mph (171 km/h). The city of Winter Park, north of Orlando, also sustained considerable damage since its many old, large oak trees had not experienced high winds. Falling trees tore down power utilities and smashed cars, and their huge roots lifted underground water and sewer utilities. The storm slowed as it exited the state over Ormond Beach just north of Daytona Beach. The storm was ultimately absorbed by a front in the Atlantic Ocean shortly after sunrise on August 15, near southeastern Massachusetts.[3][4]

Charley was initially expected to hit further north in Tampa, and caught many Floridians off-guard due to a sudden change in the storm's track as it approached the state. Along its path, Charley caused 10 deaths and $16.9 billion in damage to insured residential property, making it the second costliest hurricane in United States history at the time.[5] Charley was a compact, fast-moving storm, which limited the scope and severity of the damage.

Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

Charley began as a tropical wave that moved off the west coast of Africa on August 4.[3] It moved quickly westward and steadily organized over the open Atlantic Ocean, with convection developing in curved bands.[3] The wave continued to develop as it approached the Lesser Antilles, and became Tropical Depression Three on August 9 while 115 mi (185 km) south-southeast of Barbados, near the island of Grenada, however, the threat to Barbados was short-lived.[3][6] Low upper-level wind shear and well-defined outflow contributed to further intensification, and the depression strengthened on August 10, despite being located in the eastern Caribbean Sea, which is an area not particularly suited to tropical cyclogenesis.[4] At this time, the National Hurricane Center in Miami designated the name "Charley."[3]

Hurricane Charley approaching Cuba on August 12

A strong ridge of high pressure to the system's north forced Charley to change track quickly to the west-northwest. It continued to strengthen and became a Category 1 hurricane on August 11, while 90 mi (140 km) south of Kingston, Jamaica.[3][6] The storm was being steered around the periphery of the high pressure area, and as a result, Charley changed direction toward the northwest. The following day, the core passed 40 mi (64 km) southwest of Jamaica, affecting the island on August 11 and 12.[4][6] The storm then passed 15 mi (24 km) northeast of Grand Cayman, reaching Category 2 status just after passing the island.[3][4] The hurricane continued to strengthen as it turned to the northwest and rounded the southwest portion of the subtropical ridge, becoming a major hurricane—a storm classified as a Category 3 hurricane or higher—just before making landfall on southern Cuba.[3] Charley came ashore near Punta Cayamas with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (190 km/h) and gusts of up to 133 mph (214 km/h), at about 0430 UTC on August 13.[6] It weakened while crossing the island, passing about 15 mi (24 km) west of downtown Havana before weakening to 110 mph (180 km/h).[3]

Charley rapidly intensifying as it approached Florida on August 13

After crossing Cuba near Menelao Mora, Hurricane Charley accelerated to the north-northeast, toward the southwest coast of Florida in response to the approach of an unseasonal mid-tropospheric trough.[6] Charley passed over the Dry Tortugas at 1200 UTC on August 13, with maximum winds of about 110 mph (180 km/h).[3][4] The strike occurred only 22 hours after Tropical Storm Bonnie made landfall on St. Vincent Island, marking the first time two tropical cyclones hit the same state within a 24-hour period.[1] Then Charley rapidly intensified, strengthening from a 110 mph (180 km/h) hurricane with a minimum central barometric pressure of 965 mbar (hPa; 28.50 inHg) to a 145 mph (233 km/h) hurricane with a pressure of 947 mbar (hPa; 27.96 inHg) in just three hours. It continued to strengthen as it turned more to the northeast, and made landfall near the island of Cayo Costa, Florida as a 150 mph (240 km/h) Category 4 hurricane with a pressure of 941 mbar (hPa; 27.79 inHg) at approximately 1945 UTC on August 13.[4][7] An hour later, the hurricane struck Punta Gorda as a 145 mph (233 km/h) storm and then passed up through Port Charlotte.[3] However, the eye had shrunk before landfall, limiting the most powerful winds to an area within 7 mi (11 km) of the center.[3]

Charley weakened considerably due to its passage over land, but still retained sustained winds of about 85 mph (137 km/h) as it passed directly over Orlando between 0020 and 0140 UTC August 14; gusts of up to 106 mph (171 km/h) were recorded at Orlando International Airport.[4] It cut a swath of destruction across Florida, also passing near Kissimmee.[3] The hurricane reemerged into the Atlantic Ocean after crossing directly over New Smyrna Beach as a Category 1 hurricane, but restrengthened slightly over open waters.[3][4] Continuing to move rapidly to the north-northeast, Charley struck near Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina as an 80 mph (130 km/h) hurricane, moved offshore briefly, and made its final landfall near North Myrtle Beach as a minimal hurricane, with winds of 75 mph (121 km/h).[4] Charley then began interacting with an approaching frontal boundary, becoming a tropical storm over southeastern North Carolina.[4] After moving back into the Atlantic Ocean near Virginia Beach on August 15, the storm became extratropical and became embedded in the frontal zone.[3][4] The extratropical storm continued to move rapidly to the northeast, and was completely absorbed by the front shortly after sunrise on August 15, near southeastern Massachusetts.[3][4]

Other Languages
Esperanto: Uragano Charley
français: Ouragan Charley
português: Furacão Charley
Simple English: Hurricane Charley
中文: 飓风查利