A tropical wave emerged from western Africa
on 4 August. Radiosonde data from Dakar showed
that this wave was accompanied by an easterly jet streak of around 65 mph near the 650 mb level. The
wave also produced surface pressure falls on the order of 5 mb over 24 h near the west coast of Africa.
On satellite images this system was not particularly impressive just after crossing the coast, since it had
only a small area of associated deep convection. As the wave progressed rapidly westward across the
tropical Atlantic, the cloud pattern gradually became better organized, with cyclonic turning becoming
more evident in the low clouds. The first center position estimates were in the vicinity of 9-10°N, 47°W
on the evening of 7 August. Curved banding of the deep convection became better defined over the
ensuing 12 h, and this, along with surface observations from the southern Windward Islands, indicated
that a tropical depression had formed by the morning of 9 August, centered about 100 n mi south-
southeast of Barbados.
Late on 9 August, the depression moved into
the southeastern Caribbean Sea. A strong deep-layer high
pressure area to the north of the tropical cyclone induced a swift west-northwestward motion near 25
mph. With low vertical shear and well-established upper-level outflow, the depression strengthened
into Tropical Storm Charley early on 10 August. Fairly steady strengthening continued while the storm
moved into the central Caribbean Sea, and when Charley approached Jamaica on 11 August, it became
a hurricane. By this time, the forward speed had slowed to 16 mph. Charley's core remained offshore
of Jamaica; the center passed about 35 n mi southwest of the southwest coast of the island on the evening
of 11 August. The hurricane then turned northwestward, and headed for the Cayman Islands and western
Cuba. It continued to strengthen, reaching Category 2 status on the morning of 12 August, just after
passing about 15 n mi northeast of Grand Cayman. As Charley neared the western periphery of a mid-
tropospheric ridge, it turned toward the north-northwest, its center passing about 20 n mi east of the
east coast of the Isle of Youth on the evening of 12 August. The eye of the hurricane crossed the south
coast of western Cuba very near Playa del Cajio just after midnight on 13 August. Charley strengthened
just before it hit western Cuba. Cuban radar and microwave imagery suggests that the eye shrank in size,
and surface observations from Cuba indicate that the maximum winds were about 120 mph as it crossed
the island. By 2 am EDT, the eye was emerging from the north coast of Cuba, about 12 n mi west of
Havana. Based on aerial reconnaissance observations, Charley weakened slightly over the lower
Straits of Florida. Turning northward, the hurricane passed over the Dry Tortugas around sunrise on
13 August with maximum winds near 110 mph.
By the time Charley reached the Dry
Tortugas, it came under the influence of an unseasonably strong
mid-tropospheric trough that had dug from the east-central United States into the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Southeast of the base of this trough, the hurricane turned north-northeastward and accelerated toward
the southwest coast of Florida. It also began to intensify rapidly at this time. By late morning on 13
August, the maximum winds had increased to near 125 mph. Just three hours later, Charley's
maximum winds had increased to Category 4 strength of 145 mph. Since the eye shrank considerably
in the 12 h before landfall in Florida, these extreme winds were confined to a very small area - within
only about 6 n mi of the center. Moving north-northeastward at around 20 mph, Charley made landfall
on the southwest coast of Florida near Cayo Costa, just north of Captiva, around mid-afternoon on
13 August with maximum sustained winds near 150 mph. Charley's eye passed over Punta Gorda before
moving across neighboring Port Charlotte with devastating results. Continuing north-northeastward at a
slightly faster forward speed, the hurricane traversed the central Florida peninsula, resulting in a swath of
destruction across the state. The center passed near Kissimmee and Orlando just after sunset on 13 August,
by which time the interaction with land caused the maximum sustained winds to decrease to around 85 mph.
Charley was still of hurricane intensity, with maximum sustained winds of 75-80 mph, when the center
moved off the northeast coast of Florida near Daytona Beach just prior to midnight 14 August.
The storm total rainfall map below was constructed using data
provided from NWS
River Forecast Centers, as well as additional reports received by the National Hurricane Center.