Three eyes of the three hurricanes passed directly over the southern part of the county. In fact, all three official paths came within 2 miles of one another within a six-week span.
Charley was the strongest, a Category 4 hurricane coming up from southwest
Charley brought the strongest winds, and moved quickly, not officially reducing power to Category 1 status until after passing by
By the time Jeanne passed, about 73,000
Complicating matters further, transportation was hindered by flood waters.
Hurricane Jeanne was the final blow of the season for the battered county, and while it was blamed for two deaths according to 2004 Sentinel reporting, reports of property damage were actually minimal.
"We had already got destroyed by two other storms. There wasn't much left to wreck by the time Jeanne came," Judd said.
Judd remembers 2004 pretty well. He was a colonel at the
He and many others that were part of the emergency operations center were collectively sitting in a room under the expectation that Hurricane Charley would be approaching
That was the case until the center received a new weather report.
"I'll never forget that," Judd said. The report showed Charley had changed direction. It would be coming directly through
"It was stark fear," Judd said. "We were told to 'expect the worst, people are going to die in its path. There will be total utter destruction. Be ready.'"
"We didn't have social media or advanced calling systems," Womble said. "That meant putting first responders out on the street with blow horns and sirens and PA's to get the word out. Cellular robustness was not what it was today."
Communication became one the biggest challenges the county faced as cellphone towers went off air and didn't have the kind of auxiliary power they have today, Womble said.
Charley's 149 mph winds tore down houses, uprooted trees and cut power lines leaving 64,000 people in the county powerless -- which left some folks who relied on powered wells without water, too.
Womble was deployed to
He spent a total of 13 days doing so.
Most damages came to the communities of
Thirty-four people died directly and indirectly because of Hurricane Charley -- five of the victims were in
Hurricane Frances was predicted to make landfall 23 days later.
Frances continued the destruction Charley started with a particularly large impact toward
"We saw homes and businesses get destroyed, but the major impact came to the citrus industry," Womble said.
In total, the three storms devastated
As far as human costs, though, Hurricane Frances spared the county the worst. While emergency responders were very active during the storm, no fatalities in
-- Orlando Weather Forecast
'Nightmare scenario': 15 years since
"We were professionals at how to move and communicate by the time hurricanes two and three came along," Judd said.
Emergency operation centers were open a total of 45 days through all three hurricanes, the longest run time the centers have ever had in
Judd recalls his campaign signs getting washed away by Charley and accepting it as a bad omen, but before Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne had made landfall, Judd won the election and was
When Jeanne's trajectory through
"We've been like that, professionals, ever since, too, in assisting other communities affected by these storms," he said.
"We don't like to say this, but it's the truth that we are very experienced in dealing with large-scale emergencies," Judd said. "Understand should someone fall victim to large disaster the men and women of our county will be there to help."
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