We moved to Daytona Beach in December 2000. After getting everything unpacked, everything cleaned up and generally finishing all those things we needed to do after moving into our new home, one of the first things we did was to build hurricane shutters for all of our windows. We were just determined not to have anyone see us on TV waiting for our pieces of plywood to come off the Lowe's or Home Depot truck as a hurricane approached. Well, after our first three years in Daytona, the 2001 through 2003 hurricane seasons, we were wondering why we'd bothered. Not only didn't any hurricanes hit Daytona, they didn't begin to be a threat - those hurricane seasons were simply non-existent for us.
But then came 2004.
Charlie was first on August 13, 2004. Charlie's projected path took it south of the Florida Keys and up the Gulf of Mexico, somewhat off the coast of Florida, to make landfall near Tampa and continue north from there. Since this was our first real 'cane, we watched the weather forecasts like hawks, particularly the projected track. Around mid-afternoon, Tom Terry, a local Orlando weatherman, saw a slight "jink" towards the east and he started talking a bit about a slight chance of Charlie heading back east, towards us. We didn't do anything about that because the National Hurricane Center continued to forecast Charlie going north off the west coast of Florida. Needless to say, though, we kept watching the projected track and it wasn't long before Tom Terry changed his projection of Charlie's track to turn eastward. Despite the fact that the National Hurricane Center continued their westerly projection, Tom's forecast was all it took for us. We went outside expecting to see all the neighbors out starting to get ready for the a hurricane. Lo-and-behold, though, not a single person was in sight! We weren't sure what to do and didn't really want to look dumb or panicky, so we compromised and went ahead and put up our storm shutters along the back of the house where no could see :). It made us feel better to do something. Anyway, it wasn't too long before Tom Terry made a clear forecast of an easterly track, specifically a track that followed I-4 all the way across the state from Tampa to Daytona. The National Hurricane Center followed suit shortly thereafter. This time when we went outside, we for sure weren't the only ones there. Everyone was out and starting to do whatever they could. We were the only house that already had storm shutters. Everyone else went to Lowe's or Home Depot for their plywood (Remember what we were trying to avoid way back when we first moved in? We did - they didn't ...). Anyway, while everyone went out for their plywood we finished putting our shutters up. Since this was the first time we ever had to do it from scratch it took us about an hour (we improved that time as the season marched on). When we finished we helped our neighbors put up their plywood. It looked like about one house out of every ten had some sort of protection.
Charlie hit the west coast of Florida at Punta Gorda as a Category 4 hurricane, which is a very powerful storm. From Punta Gorda, it headed directly towards Orlando and Daytona. A friend of ours was very nervous in her trailer, so we invited her to stay with us and we all watched the hurricane news on TV as Charlie got closer and closer, doing a great deal of damage as it came, but losing strength as it traveled over the land towards Daytona. Too late, I realized that we were watching the news on our TV with a satellite antenna. I'd totally forgotten to take down the satellite antenna until it was too late - there was no way that I was going on the roof to save my satellite antenna during a hurricane! (The antenna survived quite nicely, by the way. I expected it to be in the next county by morning, but it suffered no damage.)
Anyway, the rest of Charlie was sort of an anti-climax for us. Charlie did, indeed, run directly over Daytona but it was barely a Category 1 hurricane by the time it got to us - still pretty strong but not strong enough to severely damage most homes. We suffered little damage, although the trailer parks weren't so fortunate. Car ports and Florida Rooms (screened in porches) generally had quite a bit of damage. There were trees down all over but, again, none near us. I had to replace four shingles that were torn off, but no other damage. We lost power from about 11pm for about 12 hours or so.
I did have to go to Lowe's after all to get my four shingles. While there I noticed everyone had a gas generator on their cart. I felt left out without one, so I got one as well. It was a 5550 watt Toro generator that cost about $650. Since our power was still out at that time, and no estimate as to when it would return, I thought it would be wise to get the generator. I got it home, hooked it up and turned it on only to have the power return an hour later! Oh well, win some, lose some. But, then again, I did have a generator and had no idea at the time just how useful it would be.
Our cleanup after Charlie was pretty easy - mostly picking up small debris from the lawn. We helped others clean up and worked on some of the damaged trailers for people in our church. I spent about a week with some of our teens sawing up the ten or so pine trees that were blown down at our church and hauling them out to the street.
By the way, remember the generator that was only useful for an hour? Well, a neighbor told me that FEMA would reimburse us for it. I called FEMA, they gave me a case number, I hand carried it to our local FEMA office and had a full reimbursement within a week! That was a really big help and, although we didn't know it at the time, was going to turn out to be extremely useful before too long!
Francis was next on September 4, 2004. Francis was forecast from the beginning to be a threat to Florida's east coast, but well south of Daytona. Unlike with Charlie, there was no delay getting the storm shutters up around the neighborhood, although it still surprised me how few people actually put up any sort of protection. Since Francis was forecast to be well south of us, there wasn't any real rush. During the short time we actually ran our new generator we realized it took quite a bit of gas. We went out to get more gas cans and couldn't find many - other people had a similar idea. I did learn a trick, though, about how to siphon gas from our modern "siphon-proof" automobile gas tanks. Anyway, we prepared as best as we could and waited for Francis to hit. Here are some pictures of our house after we finished with our preparations.
The window on the left end has one of our homemade shutters that are recessed into the window well. That's a bay window above the cactus. I couldn't figure out any way to make and attach protection for it, so that's the only "commercial" shutters we have. That section that looks like it's missing from the bay window shutters is actually a Lexan panel so we can see outside, although it is a distorted view. We're glad we did that because being inside a house with ALL windows shuttered is pretty gloomy.
The back of the house was similarly protected.
Those are two sets of sliding doors on the porch - they were the hardest do make shutters for. You can see two stumps in this picture. I took the opportunity after Charlie to remove three of our 19 palm trees. They were our tallest trees and I had a hard time trimming them because of their height. I'm glad they had "storm damage" from Charlie that let me get rid of them. It turns out that one of the most vulnerable parts of a house is the garage door and here's a picture
of how we handled that.
We backed both cars against the door and used a 4x4 brace to keep the door from being pushed inwards. If you look closely, you can see a chain at the base of the brace. That chain attaches to the door and prevents the door from being sucked out.
Francis actually made landfall at Vero Beach, south of Melbourne. Francis was another Category 4 hurricane that looked like it was going to miss Daytona. What we hadn't counted on were the "storm rings" that swirl counter-clockwise outward from the center of the hurricane. It seemed like Daytona was hit by one of those after another for about 28 hours. Since Francis stayed well south of us and due to the counter-clockwise rotation, the wind in Daytona was very consistent and directly out of the east. Our house faces directly west so, while we kept the back of the house buttoned up, we were able to sit on the front porch, with our front door open, and watch the storm from there. You can see some of the fury of the storm here
Those are pictures of our neighbor's house across the street.
Here's a video of his house later on.
You can see his shingles starting to flap - he eventually lost most of them and got a new roof out of the deal.
This neighbor also lost most of his shingles on the east side of his house and got a new roof.
They weren't able to replace those roofs, however until Spring because of the huge backlog of work and shortage of shingles. Here are some videos of the trees out the back porch