CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. -- On August 13th, 2004, Hurricane Charley ripped through Charlotte County and into DeSoto County, causing billions of dollars in damage.
On the 10-year anniversary, many are celebrating how far places like Punta Gorda have come since the devastating storm. Among those looking at local progress is former Governor Jeb Bush.
Local resident Diana Dodge remembers what it was like here 10 years ago. “I felt like I was in the Wizard of Oz.”
She remembers the destruction and the people; and recalls one man in particular who she tried to help.
“He has tears in his eyes and he's looking around and asks me if I can help find his house. I started crying. It was as if I didn't live there."
If you missed the storm a decade ago, Director of Emergency Management Wayne Sallade say you might not ever know the extent of the damage that blew through there.
“To those who are new to our community there is no indication. This is a brand new place. It's urban renewal by disaster,” says Sallade.
You can still find a few places where a building once stood and nothing has been built in its place. More than three billion dollars in damage was done.
Nearly $60 million of that was just hauling away debris—a task which residents and the local government took care of first.
“They didn't sit around waiting for help to arrive. They didn't moan and groan. They got to work. They said we have to fix this."
On the Charley’s anniversary on Wednesday, former Governor Jeb Bush and former district congressman Adam Putnam talked to local leaders about the experience.
“What will always be a memory for me in the aftermath of this storm is how this community reacted to help one another. It's special. It didn't happen in every storm; I will leave it at that," Governor Bush proudly recalls.
“It's amazing how quickly there has been recovery here. The schools are all new. All the public buildings are first rate."
The impressively rebuilt area came a result of a lot of money and determination.
“To be the shining example it is today 10 years later is a remarkable story,” notes Sallade.
Diana Dodge agrees. “You had a lot of people that went the extra mile to help out, and it shows."
We must also remember that four people tragically lost their lives as a direct result of the storm.