HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Back in 2004, for the first time in memory, three major hurricanes hit the same county during the same storm season. In Polk County it started with Charley.
As it packed 150 mile per hour winds, experts predicted Charley would scoot up the coast and hit the Tampa Bay area. “My daughter evacuated from Sarasota and came here; everybody always evacuated to Polk County,” Lake Wales resident Marsha Loveman said.
The category 4 hurricane turned suddenly into Captiva Island. It cut a swath of destruction through Port Charlotte, right up through Polk County.
“We couldn’t see anything, and the sound was so scary,” Loveman recalled. The sound was the shingles on her roof being torn away by high winds.
Loveman huddled in a bathroom in her Lake Wales home with family and pets. When daylight came, she found her pool full of shingles.
Charley ripped Lakes Wales, Ft. Meade and Bartow.
“I remember walking out the next day and seeing all the damage, it was overwhelming,” Tina Peak said. Peak, also from Lake Wales, saw her roof and a neighbor’s shed just fly away in the wind. She was without power and water for days.
On Labor Day weekend in 2004, Hurricane Frances, a storm about the size of Texas, lumbered over Florida and dropped several inches of rain on Polk. Peak remembers her ceilings, soaked from Charley, collapsed.
Three weeks later Hurricane Jeanne ravaged Polk again.
What 2004 taught Polk residents was to stay informed of a storm’s whereabouts, be patient and know they will never be first in line to have power restored, and always be ready.