(NEW YORK) — When he saw the latest path for Hurricane Ian, Kevin Doyle, a bar owner in Punta Gorda, Florida, said his heart sank and he had a flashback to 2004 when Hurricane Charley destroyed his business and much of his coastal town.
Ian is taking a similar path of Charley, which caused $16 billion in damage and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, killed 18 people.
“The difference with Charley was it was extremely fast and destructive and this is going to be slow and destructive. So, it’s going to be worse than Charley,” Doyle told ABC News Wednesday morning.
Doyle rode out Charley in his bar, the Celtic Ray Public House. This time he is taking no chances. He and his wife have evacuated to the east coast of Florida, while his son, who is a co-owner of the bar, is holding down the fort in Punta Gorda.
Hurricane Ian first made landfall in Florida on Wednesday afternoon, before making a second landfall just south of Punta Gorda as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds estimated at 145 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Chaley made landfall in Punta Gorda on the afternoon of Aug. 13, 2004, causing a 7-foot storm surge in nearby Fort Myers.
“The building was basically destroyed,” Doyle said of his bar. “Then we found out the following morning there was no insurance on it. We were renting at the time.”
A 40-year resident of Punta Gorda, Doyle said he and his family decided to stay and rebuild, realizing another destructive storm could hit someday. Now that day has come.
Many of Doyle’s neighbors who lost homes and businesses have rebuilt, adding new roofs designed to withstand a major hurricane. Punta Gorda has become a model for how to hurricane-proof a city, Doyle said.
Doyle said that following Charley, he bought the wrecked, roofless building that housed his bar and spent seven years rebuilding it.
“I think everybody learned their lesson from that one,” Doyle said. “When we rebuilt, we went over the codes with everything. It’s like a fortress now.”
He said Ian will be the first big test to see how prepared Punta Gorda is to withstand what is expected to be the most devastating storm to hit the area since Charley.
“I’m not going to predict anything at all,” Doyle said. “I’m just going to wait and see what’s left when it all goes away.”
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