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‘Hurricane Charley’ party brings out storm tales

By Staff | Aug 15, 2011

On Friday, Aug. 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley made a direct hit on Pine Island. It had been heading toward Tampa but made a quick and sharp right turn.

Auxiliary Public Relations Chair Claudine Alvarez moved here after Charley was gone. Her organization, however, is charged by its higher ups to hold 17 events each year. The annual Hurricane Charley party is one that brings out a lot of stories.

Four women grouped by the front door wore plastic rain ponchos and different variations of Hurricane Charley T-shirts. Guylyn De Meyere and Diana Hatley actually were in the American Legion building when the hurricane blew through town. Their friends, Sherry Krchmar and Bev Young, were en route to the island. Every year they stage their own commemoration of the day by running around the Legion bar a time or two waving palm fronds and yelling, “The hurricane’s coming.”

Chuck Hatley said there were about 65 people in the Legion on Aug. 13, 2004.

“We just finished lunch,” he recalled. “We ate hamburgers cooked on a George Foreman grill. Then the power went off and the fun began.”

Most of those taking shelter stayed six hours before heading to their homes to assess the damage. Hatley owned the only generator on his street. He had also been in Miami during Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

“That one looked like a war zone. We dodged a bullet here,” he said.

Joe Rataj, Second Vice of the Legion, stayed in his St. James City home during the storm. He put Diana Hatley’s brand new car in his garage along with four motorcycles, leaving his own car outside. Mrs. Hatley covered her car with a tarp to Rataj’s amusement.

“I told her if a hurricane comes, what good will that do?’ he said.

Local musician Lonnie Hendrix watched the hurricane reports on a golf course in New York. As soon as the storm had passed over Pine Island, Hendrix started out for St. James City, pausing in Georgia to buy a generator. He arrived 24 hours later.

“It was the weirdest looking thing going through Little Pine Island,” he said. “All the telephone poles were blown over except the painted ones.”

Even the musical entertainers had a tale to tell. Gary of Gary and Kerri was scheduled to go on tour the next day. Hurricane Charley wiped out his studio in Port Charlotte and flipped over his tour bus.

“I lost work and I lost a roof,” he said.

Diane Trazzera, a member of the Auxiliary Executive Board was the chief cook and bottle washer for the day. She was assisted by First Vice President and Membership Chair Shirley Love, and Historian Lucy Avery. All of the proceeds go to the Auxiliary Emergency Fund.