Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Punta Gorda, Florida -- The clock stopped at 4:27 p.m. 10 years ago in downtown Punta Gorda as Hurricane Charley's 150 mph winds roared through bringing a community to its knees.

"When I was in my house it sounded like you were in a train," says Dean Stainton, restaurant owner.

"The destruction was just massive."

"It was very loud the walls were shaking behind me," adds Robin Cotee, homeowner.

Stainton lost his restaurant, Cotee lost her home.

In Charlotte County, 17,000 homes were destroyed, and 80 percent of the structures in Punta Gorda were damaged.

RELATED:Fort Meade recalls the storm

"When we first came across the bridge the restaurant looked okay. I got closer and closer it didn't look right it totally collapsed," Stainton said.

Open since 1982, the historic waterfront building for Dean's South of the Border was demolished and rebuilt a couple of blocks inland.

"We were able to save the pine, rough cut Dade County pine beams dating back to 1907 and this 13,000-pound fireplace," Stainton said.

"Devastation," says Cotee. That's how she describes Hurricane Charley's aftermath as she and her family hid in their closet under mattresses.

"All of a sudden I feel drips of water. Why am I getting wet? I pushed myself back peeked over we had no more roof," Cotee recalled. When the storm was over she and her neighbors stepped outside. "We wandered outside. Where to begin? What do we do?"

ANOTHER ONE:Could we endure another Charley?

Within an hour, friends from Sarasota drove in to help. "With plywood, tarps, nails nail guns to put all over our roof," Cotee said.

The only furniture salvaged was the dining room set her family uses today. A year later, Cotee had a new home but the community's recovery has taken years.

"It was Mother Nature's housecleaning it really revitalized the whole area," Stainton said.

Today, downtown Punta Gorda is seeing an urban renewal where new meets old.

A decade ago, I remember doing live reports for 10 News from the vacant lot where the Punta Gorda Mall once stood. Today where the 4 Points Sheraton stands once stood the Holiday Inn or what was left of it. The condominiums next door were gutted and rebuilt and on the other side there's a new convention center.

Ten years later there's a new skyline for downtown Punta Gorda and that famous clock where time once stood still remains.

Time stands still but there is more progress and growth.

Two days after the storm, Stainton registered the name Hurricane Charley's and in December opened a restaurant by that name. Inside pictures of that historical day Aug. 13, 2004, serve as a reminder.

"We not only survived the storm, we thrived through the storm. It was a rebirth of Punta Gorda," Stainton said.

Read or Share this story: