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USGS Flood-Response Teams Documented Effects of Hurricane Charley in Southwest-Central Florida in August 2004

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Track of Hurricane Charley
Above: Track of Hurricane Charley, August 9-15, 2004 (based on data from the National Weather Service). [larger version]

USGS employee (arrow) flags high-water marks from Hurricane Charley storm surge in Charlotte County.
Above: USGS employee (arrow) flags high-water marks from Hurricane Charley storm surge in Charlotte County.

Hurricane Charley made landfall at 3:45 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) at Cayo Costa, just north of the barrier island Captiva in Lee County, FL, on August 13, 2004. The storm was a Category 4 hurricane with winds of about 140 mph at the time it hit the Florida coast. In the days after the storm, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists hurried out to document its effects. While researchers from the USGS center in St. Petersburg, FL, were flying over the coast to photograph coastal erosion and deposition (see Sound Waves article, USGS Scientists Gather Images and Information About Recent Hurricanes, flood-response teams from the USGS Tampa Hydrologic Data Section were on the ground, measuring streamflow and other effects of the storm throughout southwest-central Florida.

Hurricane Charley's eye wall passed over Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, snapping utility poles, damaging buildings, and flooding roads. Storm surge from the hurricane was about 4 ft. The center of the hurricane continued northeast at about 25 mph and moved through Fort Ogden, Arcadia, Zolfo Springs, and Wachula, passing Lake Wales at approximately 7:45 p.m. (EDT). Charley moved off the northeast coast of Florida near Daytona Beach at around 11:00 p.m. (EDT) as a Category 1 hurricane. The most intense damage occurred in a band approximately 10 mi wide around the eye wall; less intense damage occurred outward from the center approximately 35 mi. High winds and floodwater from this storm caused damage to public and private property, with an approximate cost to insurers of $7.4 billion (Insurance Information Institute).

Flood-response teams from the USGS Tampa Hydrologic Data Section were deployed after the passing of Hurricane Charley to measure discharge (streamflow), conduct inspections, and make repairs to USGS gauging stations in Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hardee, Highlands, and Polk Counties. Two stream-gauging stations were destroyed and nine were damaged by the high winds and floodwaters associated with the hurricane. In addition to the flood-response effort, survey crews were sent to flag high-water marks left by the storm surge along the coastline in Charlotte County. High-water marks were used to determine the maximum elevation of floodwaters. Precipitation recorded at three USGS gauging stations in southwest-central Florida ranged from 1.6 to 5.4 inches during the storm.

Florida storm damage from Hurricane Charley in Arcadia Florida storm damage from Hurricane Charley along Interstate 75 near Punta Gorda.
Storm Damage: Florida storm damage from Hurricane Charley in Arcadia (above left [larger version]) and along Interstate 75 near Punta Gorda (above right [larger version]).

Stream-gauging station before Hurricane Charley. Stream-gauging station after Hurricane Charley.
Stream-Gauge Damage: Stream-gauging station, Peace Creek Drainage Canal 02293987, before (above left [larger version]) and after (above right [larger version]) Hurricane Charley.

The Tampa Hydrologic Data Section operates a network of streamflow-gauging stations in southwest-central Florida in cooperation with Federal, State, and local agencies. Data from these stations are crucial for water-supply planning, flood monitoring, emergency response, dam- and reservoir-system operation, establishing flood-insurance rates, and engineering and maintenance of bridges, roads, and other structures. Most of these stations provide real-time data through satellite relay or radio telemetry. The National Weather Service, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, and other agencies use the data to maintain water supplies, forecast floods, and issue flood warnings.

Related Sound Waves Stories
USGS Scientists Gather Images and Information About Recent Hurricanes
October 2004
The Flood of June 2003 in Southwest Central Florida
August 2003

Related Web Sites
Water Resources of Florida - Realtime Data
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Hurricane Charley Impact Studies
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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in this issue: Fieldwork cover story:
Tsunami Survey Finds Evidence of Astonishing Wave Heights

Flood-Response Teams Document Effects of Hurricane Charley

Geologist Invited to Map Tsunami Impacts in the Maldives

Mapping Oyster Beds In Apalachicola Bay

USGS Research Vessel Helps Secure Super Bowl

Outreach Tsunami News Conference

Tsunami Web Sites

Staff & Center News Smith Director of National Wetlands Research Center

Stewart Receives Gulf Guardian Award

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