Hurricane Charley~ The Storm Approaches



The path of Hurricane Charley's eye-wall across Florida on August 13.
The red dot indicates where I live in Seminole County.

     Dawn of August 13 brought a slightly more ominous comment in the 5am Local Hurricane Statement: "The inland tropical storm wind watch has been upgraded to an inland tropical storm wind warning. As Charley approaches landfall over west central Florida late today or this evening, sustained winds will increase above 40 mph from south to north during the afternoon. Peak winds are expected to reach between 40 and 60 mph after sunset as the circulation center passes west of the area. Gusts to hurricane force, 75 mph, will be possible, mainly west of Sanford and Orlando. Any eastward deviation of the forecast track of Charley could bring sustained hurricane force winds into the interior of east central Florida". Through the morning hours, it became apparent from satellite loops, that the hurricane was indeed turning more NE. While the National Hurricane Center held to its predicted Tampa landfall, local tv stations were breaking in and telling viewers that the storm was turning and would now pass near, or directly over the Orlando area around 9 pm.

     The 11am Local Hurricane Statment upgraded the tropical storm wind warning for east central Florida to an inland hurricane warning, predicting gusts to 75mph. Charley was a small but powerful hurricane, with maximum winds of 110 mph. Reconnaissance aircraft reached the storm around 1pm and found the storm was strengthening. They measured the sustained winds had increased to 125 mph with a central pressure of 964 mb or 28.46". This made Charley a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. No sooner had the Hurricane Center broadcast this information to the public, when new data came in from the reconnaissance aircraft. Charley had continued to strengthen and was turning more to the NE. Winds were measured at 145 mph and the central pressure had dropped to 941 mb or 27.79". Charley was now a Category 4 storm. The Hurricane Center issued a special advisory at 2pm, shifting the forecast landfall away from Tampa and onto the Charlotte Harbor area.

     The 2pm Local Statement truly conveyed the urgency and seriousness of the situation: "Major inland hurricane wind event shaping up for east central Florida, hurricane warnings raised for portions of east central Florida coast...The track of Hurricane Charley has continued shifting more to the right today and strengthening, greatly increasing the likelihood of sustained hurricane force winds over east central Florida. This type of hurricane scenario has not occurred since Hurricane Donna in 1960. Hurricane force winds should begin to spread into Osceola and Okeechobee counties early this evening and then spread across the Orlando metro area and the rest of east central Florida during the night. Widespread power outages can be expected later this evening. Residents must rush to completion preparations for winds from Charley. Mobile home residents should move into substantial shelter with friends or relatives or seek safety in shelters county emergency management has opened. This has become a very dangerous situation. Make any last minute preparations but be prepared to shelter in place by this evening.".

     The first outer rainband approached my area around 2:30pm. The sky turned very dark, with clouds racing to the west. A number of neighbors stepped outside to view the sky, which had quite a spectacular appearance. This first squall produced some moderate rain, but little wind. First Squall

First Squall      This picture is looking out my front door across the street. It was taken at 2:40pm on August 13, during the first outer rain band's passage. Notice the tree in front of the house across the street. That tree will not survive the night. The roof of this same house will suffer severe damage and has since been replaced.

     At 4pm, the messages from the Melbourne Weather Service continued to convey the rapidly deteriorating situation: "Hurricane force winds near the center of Charley are expected to move across Polk county and into the Kissimmee / Orlando area by 7 pm this evening and the rest of east central Florida during the night. As hurricane force winds approach Kissimmee and Orlando, strong south to southeast winds will increase to 50 to 60 mph. Depending on the exact track of Charley, hurricane force winds of near 100 mph will occur in a 50 to 60 mile wide path across the area. Since the exact path is uncertain at this time, everyone across Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties should prepare for dangerous hurricane force winds. The greatest risk to life in these areas will be to those in trailers, recreational vehicles, and manufactured homes. Another serious risk this evening will be from falling trees. It has been a number of years since the area has been swept by high winds, so a great number of trees will be blown down in and near the storm track. Expect serious wind damage to weak structures. If you are in this general area this evening, quickly move to a more substantially built home or building. If strong winds pass over your area take the same precautions you would for a tornado. That is, go to a small room such as a closet, hallway or bathroom on the lowest floor or seek safety in county operated shelters. If you have shutters for your home, they should be up by now. Widespread power outages can be expected later this evening. This has become a very dangerous situation".

     Around 6pm, the second major rainband began moving into my area. Winds and rain were much stronger than the earlier squall. And, unlike the intial rainband, the rain and wind did not completely cease. From now until the hurricane passed, the weather went downhill.Second Rain Band
Car Against House     We parked our cars as close to the house as possible to help shield them from the predicted winds.
     Around 7pm, we got this brilliantly stupid idea to drive around the local area and see how the neighborhoods were prepared, if at all, for the impending hurricane. We found a total of 3 homes with windows boarded. The many years of no hurricane activity had left the area with complete apathy.Boarded House

Part 3~ Darkness Falls


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