Wayne Sallade's favorite Hurricane Charley memory

Wayne's famous frown. Staff photo /Harold Bubil.

Wayne's famous frown. Staff photo /Harold Bubil.

PUNTA GORDA -- Charlotte County Emergency Manager Wayne Sallade has told these stories many times.

As the community remembers Hurricane Charley of Aug. 13, 2004, and celebrates its recovery, they bear repeating.

“Charley made a personal impact," he told me recently. "Unlike some places, where the emergency manager is a retired military person or had a career all over the place, I had lived here for 40 years. My elementary school, Peace River, was destroyed, my junior high was destroyed. The Charlotte Memorial Auditorium, where my wife and I went to both junior and senior proms, and graduation, was destroyed. A big chunk of my life was blown away that day. Fortunately, my home in Murdock survived, but unfortunately, I was going through a divorce at that time and never lived there again.

“The devastation didn’t really hit me until three days after the storm, when I stood on the field at Tarpon Stadium and looked around. Then I broke down.”

His recall of the moments after Charley left Punta Gorda, following its 45-minute rampage in the late afternoon of Friday they 13th, is particularly compelling.

He grabbed his push-to-talk phone and called for help, not knowing if anyone would hear him, especially Sarasota County EM Gregg Feagans, now retired, with whom Sallade had a close relationship.

“I call him 'dad,' and he calls me 'son,' ” says Sallade. “I stepped outside at 5:30, it was still blowing 45 mph, and I took my handy-dandy push-to-talk and my first call as to Gregg Feagans. I didn’t even know if it had gotten through.

“ ‘Dad, we are Ground Zero on this one, and we are hurt bad.’

"It wasn’t five seconds later that he came back on that thing to me and said, ‘Son, we are on our way.’ ”

Within the half-hour, emergency response teams started pouring in to Charlotte County.

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: August 21, 2014
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