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Major Hurricane Causes Extensive Damage in Florida - 2004-08-13

Hurricane Charley came ashore in southwestern Florida late Friday with winds of 230-kilometers an hour. There was heavy flooding in Florida as the storm moved inland. Charley is forecast to cross Florida and re-emerge in the Atlantic as a major Hurricane.

Hurricane Charley blew ashore with 230 kilomter-an-hour winds near Sanibel island, about 250 kilometers south of the city of Tampa. After crossing Cuba, where it caused minor damage, the storm intensified in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico before striking Florida.

Bill Kirkland and his family took shelter in their home on Sanibel Island less than 15 kilometers from the center of the storm. He told a local television station he had turned his house into a local gathering point as the storm moved ashore. "It is blowing pretty good, the house is shaking and rocking a little bit. No broken windows yet, everything is intact. A lot of trees are down. We have lost the power of course to the television. We have a generator and we have three families who have stopped here. We also have an emergency room doctor here," he said.

Authorities in the area urged more than two million residents to evacuate, and say about one million left the area, or moved to shelters. One of those who stayed in her home was Maria Lombardi of Cape Coral, who lost her roof in the storm. "I lost my roof. Several power lines around my house, in fact one of the big utility poles has snapped off and the lines are in my backyard. I lost my shed out of my yard and two windows have blown off," she said.

Charley, the biggest storm to strike the area in more than 40 years forced military authorities to evacuate MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, home of Central Command and the nerve center for the Iraq war.

State authorities say it is too early to say how much damage Charley caused but Governor Jeb Bush says damage will be in the billions of dollars.