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June Pelo
09-09-04, 22:40
Just after 4 p.m. on Friday, August 13, 2004 Hurricane Charley struck our city of Port Charlotte, Florida with 145 mph winds. We were told the hurricane would hit south of us so we did not evacuate. The storm stalled near Sanibel Island, turned north and gathered strength and at 3:30 gale force winds battered us with the worst part of the front of the hurricane. Then the eye passed over and there was an eerie stillness until we were hit by winds in the opposite direction as the hurricane moved inland. Charley cut a path from Port Charlotte through Arcadia into Orlando and on to Daytona. In its path lay destruction, loss of life and billions of dollars in lost property. The infrastructure of Port Charlotte was leveled. There was no phone, electricity, water, traffic or street signs. Downed power lines and trees blocked almost every road, making travel impossible. Property damage was so extensive that normal landmarks could not be recognized.

In the course of three hours, the landscape of our lives was changed forever. Port Charlotte looks like a battlefield scene from a movie. My church, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, is located on U.S. 41 which runs right through the city. The church was heavily damaged: The steeple is gone, the roof has to be replaced, the floors and walls of the choir loft and sacristy have to be replaced, 1/3 of the hymnals were destroyed, water stained everything inside, mold was so bad that people could not stay in the church for more than 2 minutes without getting sick. A few days after the storm, trucks from Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Venice, FL arrived with bottled water. A sign was placed on U.S. 41 indicating a food pantry was open to anyone in need. People came - sweaty, hungry and thirsty. Food and water began to pour in from other local churches and it was passed out as fast as it arrived. The church is serving over 60 meals a day to people in need as well as giving food, water and other supplies to over 100 people each day. Pictures can be seen at http://www.fbsynod.org/Web/News/News2004/0408Aug/HolyTrinPChar.htm

June