Tuesday, April 16

Punta Gorda waits and prays, 18 years after Charley

Eighteen years ago, Kevin Doyle rode out Hurricane Charley in his Punta Gorda pub and watched as Category 4 winds blew away the roof above his head.

“It was harrowing,” Doyle said. “It was terrifying.”

The Aug. 13, 2004, storm destroyed half of Celtic Ray Public House. And the rest of Punta Gorda didn’t fare any better, taking a direct hit and suffering the worst damage in Southwest Florida.

Doyle remembers walking around downtown Punta Gorda afterward and seeing the destruction. The storm caused $3.2 billion in damage in Charlotte County and left about 11,000 of Punta Gorda’s homes and 300 of its businesses destroyed.

“You didn’t know which street you were on,” Doyle said about downtown Punta Gorda after Charley. “No landmarks, no street signs, no traffic lights. Cables lying across the road — live.”

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Now, as Hurricane Ian bears down on the west coast of Florida this week, Doyle hopes he won’t have to go through all that again. But he said he feels better about his chances if Ian follows Charley’s path and makes landfall in Punta Gorda.

After Charley, both he and his son Max Doyle rebuilt their bar with storm windows and a new roof made to Miami-Dade hurricane standards. Plus they plan to break out the generator and board up a few more of the windows Tuesday.

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“I would say I’m concerned,” Max Doyle said. “I just want to get everything prepared and ready. But I wouldn’t say I’m anxious or scared.”

The Celtic Ray owners are planning to stay.  They watched the roof tear off the bar during Charley.  The building was rebuilt.  As Hurricane Ian tracks closer and closer to Punta Gorda, are residents feeling like this storm will be another Charley?  Monday, September 26, 2022.

Punta Gorda: A city rebuilt after Hurricane Charlie

The good news: Punta Gorda is considered to be in much better shape than it was in 2004. Like Celtic Ray, much of the city was rebuilt to stricter standards designed to withstand hurricane-force winds.

“Half the town got wiped out,” Kevin Doyle said. “Most of it was rubbish. It got replaced by stronger stuff.”


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