It's been 10 years since Hurricane Charley whipped its way across the state, flattening homes, toppling trees, and burning its way into the collective memory of millions of Floridians.
"It was terrible. I wouldn't want to go through it again," said Tony Parker, a Polk County resident. "I just didn't think it was going to be that bad when it came through."
Charley was the first of four storms to pummel Florida during the 2004 hurricane season. It began in the Atlantic Ocean, crossed over Cuba, and then made its way up Florida's west coast.
The storm was initially projected to make a worst-case-scenario landfall in the vulnerable Tampa Bay area, but just hours before landfall, the rapidly intensifying storm veered east, sparing Tampa but slamming Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte with Category 4 winds.
Charley then spent seven hours crossing the state, leaving a trail of destruction through the inland communities in Polk County and even the Orlando area -- where many evacuees from the Tampa Area had fled to ride out the storm.
"We were upstairs and could hear the trees crack and fall. I think we lost like 17 trees, and we lost electricity and everything else," said Sandy Pittman, a Bartow resident.
It was an eye-opener for folks hunkered down at home or in emergency shelters. Emergency managers say since Charley, preparedness and response has improved with technology, and so has the seriousness people lend to a storm warning.
"It's definitely something that people need to take serious," said Dakota Chestnut, who lives in Bartow. "If anything like that happens again we'll be more prepared."
The storm is blamed for 24 deaths and billions of dollars in damages to Florida. Hurricanes Frances, Jeanne, and Ivan would also rake the Sunshine State before the end of the season.