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A Decade After 2004 Storms, FEMA Urges Hurricane Preparedness

Release date: 
August 22, 2014
Release Number: 

ATLANTA - September’s National Preparedness Month reminds us of the importance of preparing for hurricanes. While the southeast is no stranger to life-changing hurricanes, this September marks 10 years since hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne affected Florida and other states, 15 years since Hurricane Floyd crossed North Carolina’s coast and 25 years since Hurricane Hugo in South Carolina. Each storm left its own unpredictable mark on the people and communities they touched. Some hurricanes brought fierce winds that tore through everything in their path, and others, storm surge and flooding that destroyed coastlines and infrastructure. Several had the wicked combination of dangerous wind and rain.

The most valuable lesson each of those storms provides for us today is that – the time to prepare for the next hurricane is now.  Each week in September, FEMA will focus on a specific area of preparedness. National Preparedness Month culminates on September 30 with America's PrepareAthon!, a national day of action to encourage individuals, businesses, organizations and communities to take part in preparedness activities. 

Visit or  for emergency preparedness resources such as a family emergency plan and a guide on building emergency kits. Find events near you, and register your preparedness activity at

Below is a recap of the storms:

The Florida Four—August 13, September 5, 16, and 26, 2004

Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne, known as the “Florida four in ‘04,” had widespread impact beyond just the Sunshine State.  However, their impact on Florida was particularly unique. It was the first time four hurricanes hit a single state in one year since the 1886 Texas hurricane season.  

Hurricane Charley, a fast and windy storm, struck Punta Gorda, Fla. on Friday, Aug. 13 and later moved through South Carolina. Hurricane Frances was a slow-moving, large storm that made landfall on Sept. 5 and brought notable storm surge to both Florida coasts. In addition to creating more than 100 tornadoes, Frances dumped heavy rain across the eastern U.S. causing near-record flooding.

On Sept. 16, Hurricane Ivan made landfall just west of Gulf Shores, Ala., with its strongest winds over the southern Alabama/western Florida panhandle border. The storm also brought significant rain and tornadoes across much of the southeastern United States. Ten days later, on Sept. 26--seven weeks after Hurricane Charley--Hurricane Jeanne made landfall just east of Stuart, Fla. Jeanne moved across central Florida then across Georgia with heavy rain.

In Florida alone, FEMA provided nearly $4 billion to individuals and communities for the recovery from the four storms. This included grants for rental assistance, home repair, and other disaster related expenses, crisis counseling, disaster legal services, disaster unemployment assistance, manufactured housing, debris removal, and the repair or replacement of infrastructure. At the time, FEMA’s response to the four hurricanes was the largest in the agency’s 26-year history.

Hurricane Floyd—September 16, 1999

Slow-moving and massive, Hurricane Floyd hit the North Carolina coast near Cape Fear weakening from a Category 4 to a Category 2 hurricane just before landfall. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina experienced the largest evacuation effort in American history at that time. Traffic engineers estimated 3 million people took to the highways creating the largest, longest, and most incredibly snarled traffic jam ever known.

Whole North Carolina towns, such as Princeville in Edgecombe County and Seven Springs in Wayne County, were inundated. Water rose to rooftops and traffic lights and stayed there for weeks. In all, it is estimated that Floyd’s floodwaters damaged 57,000 structures in North Carolina -- 7,000 of which were destroyed, and 17,000 classified as uninhabitable. The state opened 230 shelters and housed up to100,000 homeless flood survivors. Two-thirds of the state was declared a disaster.

Floyd continued along the coast of the Mid-Atlantic into New England bringing significant flooding to areas already saturated by Tropical Storm Dennis two weeks earlier. In addition to North Carolina, 12 states received federal disaster declarations from Florida to Maine. FEMA provided more than $2.4 billion for recovery in the 13 states.

Hurricane Hugo—September 21, 1989

Hurricane Hugo made landfall just north of Charleston, South Carolina, at midnight Sept. 21, 1989, as a Category 4 hurricane with 135 mph winds and rolled through South Carolina on a northwest path.

The storm’s high winds extended far inland and storm surge inundated the South Carolina coast from Charleston to Myrtle Beach. Hours later, the storm tore through much of North Carolina. It was

the strongest hurricane on record to hit South Carolina, and the second strongest hurricane (since reliable records began in 1851) to hit the East Coast north of Florida. Only Hurricane

Hazel of 1954 (Category 4, 140 mph winds) was stronger.

More deadly and destructive than Hurricane Hugo's 135 mph winds were the surging tides accompanying landfall. The combination of high tide, the tidal surge preceding Hugo and waves generated by the storm inundated a wide area of coastal plain.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, residents lost power for up to 18 days as thousands of trees, broken limbs and debris severed power lines.

In South Carolina alone, FEMA provided $82 million to individuals and families for housing and other disaster-related expenses and $236 million for debris removal, public utility and infrastructure repair or replacement and emergency protective measures.

These storms remind us that the time to prepare for the next hurricane is now. Visit or for a wealth of emergency preparedness resources, including how to create a family emergency plan, build an emergency kit and take part in a community preparedness event.




 FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Last Updated: 
January 3, 2018 - 12:06