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Before and After Charley

Reported by Eleanor - August 14, 2004 -

Studio B with Shep Smith (Aug. 13, 3:00 p.m.) was totally devoted to Hurricane Charley. Shep was personally familiar with the Port Charlotte and Charlotte Harbor area where the hurricane was predicted to hit within the hour. At that time, the hurricane had recently been upgraded to a Category 4 and had taken a right turn toward that area.

Before the Storm: Shep noted that evacuation of the Tampa area had been handled quite well, and it was prepared for a direct hit. But a direct hit in the Charlotte Harbor area was not anticipated until a couple of hours before landfall. At that point, it was hard to get out. Another item of note is that many of the people who evacuated the Tampa area headed toward Orlando, that now was in the direct path of the storm.

Having been in the Charlotte Harbor area, Shep mentioned a lot of mobile homes filled with senior citizens, many of them relatively new to the area, and not familiar with hurricanes. Earlier, the coming storm was announced on the radio and TV, and people were asked to voluntarily leave due to possible wind and flood, but people in the Punta Gorda and Sanibel Island area did not expect the storm to turn and hit them directly, so some people stayed. They believed until the last couple of hours that the storm would hit Tampa, and did not expect the change in direction. (There was a question as to whether they got the word in time that areas that far south of Tampa would be in the bullseye.)

During the Storm: An hour or so later, Gov. Jeb Bush came on and said, "We hope people took seriously the requests to leave." (He didn't mention the mobile homes in that area, or the late change in the intensity or direction of the storm.) CNN indicated that the response in the area actually hit was not as rapid or well coordinated due to the surprise last minute turn and increased wind speed of the storm.

After the storm: Today on Fox & Friends (Aug. 14, 7:00 a.m.) local Punta Gorda officials stated that wind gusts up to 173 mph were recorded, and it would be no surprise if there are a large number of injuries and deaths. Punta Gorda is the hardest hit. Fox is reporting "stacks of bodies" in trailer parks. Hundreds of people are missing. This area was not expecting a major hit. Nobody thought it would happen here. Residents "ignored" evacuation orders. The fact that it came here and jumped to a Category 4 was a surprise. "People did not heed or they disregarded warnings." One hundred mobile homes were in a subdivision that was hardest hit. Body bags have been ordered. There might be more fatalities than in 1992.