Hurricanes Hit in 2004

Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne - Twin Disasters for Tiara Towers

by Mike Izzi 602 S


During the fourteen years after the construction of Tiara Towers, things were pretty normal for a condominium on the east coast of Florida. We survived the storms in that period without major impact to our lives on the beach. Our maintenance funds were well managed and we had no need for major assessments. Parties and happy hours were the norm. "Life was a beach" as they say, and we enjoyed every minute of it. Then the impossible happened.

North Beach view from FP Inlet

At 1:00 AM on September 5th, 2004, hurricane Frances packing 105 mph winds struck South Hutchinson Island at Sewells Point as a Category 2. The horror began. Twelve foot wave conditions slammed Avalon State Park. Wind gusts were 90 mph at Lake Okeechobee and reached 124 mph at Port Canaveral. Those were the reported conditions at the surrounding areas around Tiara Towers on that fateful day. Tiara fared badly on that day, and residents who were in the area couldn't believe their eyes at the devastation.

Then, as if that wasn't bad enough, mother nature did something which had never been seen before. It came back three weeks later with a second punch, almost as if it were delivering the knockout punch, with a storm of equal intensity and size. Hurricane Jeanne was headed out to sea when it made an abrupt aboutface and hit South Hutchinson Island again at midnight on September 26th, 2004 near the House of Refuge as a Category 3. Reported wind gusts this time were 106 mph in Vero Beach, 102 mph in Sebastian and 104 mph in Lake Okeechobee with ocean wave conditions cresting at thirteen feet. Storm tracking charts show the two storms made landfall at almost the same location and with the same intensity. This had never happened before and Tiara Towers Condominium, along with the Treasure Coast of Florida, were the unfortunate recipients of this horrible anomaly in weather history.

Figure 1 shows the landfall points of past hurricanes on the shores of the U.S. east coast. Figure 2 shows the hurricane probability curve through the seasonal months. Figure 3 shows the storm track for both Frances and Jeanne superimposed. Notice the only place the two tracks coincide is the landfall point on Hutchinson Island. Figure 4 shows the unbelievable similarity of the comparative size and location of both hurricanes on the radar screen as they approached the Fort Pierce area. The rage of the ocean is apparent in the Figure 5 photo of the extent of the ocean's reach at the Tiara dunewalk during the storm's approach.

Figure 1 - US Hurricane Map

Figure 2 - Hurricane Season

Figure 3 - Storm Tracks

Figure 4 - Storm Radar

Figure 5 - Tiara Dune Walk Jeanne approach

The next set of photos is a comparative view looking east from the Tiara north building entrance gate. The Figure 6 - Before Photo is what you would have seen before the storm on September 4th, 2004. The Figure 7 - After Photo is what you saw after hurricane Frances swept through. The devastation amazed everyone who saw it.

Figure 6_7 - Storm Before & After

The remaining photos will give you an idea of just how devastating it was. The ocean was driven within a few feet of the buildings (see Figure 5). When the dust settled, the south building cooling tower was blown completely off the roof, and the boilers and roof were damaged. The concrete shingles on both garages were blown off and sent flying as missiles and half of the north garage roof was completely torn off. All the carports were flattened, along with the cars left under them. The Pergolas were reduced to a pile of splintered lumber and the pools had accumulated several feet of sand. Water was driven into the first floor apartments and common areas along with sand, dirt and debris. Some upper apartments that were not protected with shutters were destroyed as well as others that lost their shutters in the storms. Figure 8_9 shows the shoulder of SR A1A piled six to eight feet high with the debris, and it hurt to see pickers along the road taking what was once a part of our condo. And more, so much more.

Figure 8_9 - Debris on A1A

The days following were very trying for everyone at Tiara. We had to deal with problems that very few condos had experienced or have had to face before. Problems dealing with cleanup operations, accomodating owners in need of help, an uncooperative insurance company, short term loans, assessments, legal matters, unreliable and unscrupulous contractors, restoration building code changes, and a myriad of other problems too numerous to mention. But we were able to survive it all and yet come out on top. On November 13th, 2007 three years after the storms hit, an agreement was signed with our insurance company and we were able to satisfy our loans, legal fees, return some of the money assessed to the owners and complete the remaining restorations. When all was said and done, we came out of this catastrophe a stronger, more united, more confident, more experienced Tiara family.

Tiara residents are a resilient, friendly, intelligent, responsible and caring group, from the members of the Board past and present, to the owners who are always willing to lend their expertise to any problem that arises and to the maintenance people who are always ready to go that extra mile. I'm proud to be part of that group.

Note: I do not know who took the photos since there were many accumulated at that time, but I wish to thank them for their contribution to this story. You may take credit for them in a comment to the article if you wish. Also if anyone has any corrections or additions to the story they are also welcome to comment. MI

5 Responses to Hurricanes Hit in 2004

  • Al and Shirley says:

    Mike, excellent writeup and photos of the hurricanes. The Board had an enormous task with the cleanup and working with the few contractors on hand . Also, trying to recuperate our claim with the insurance. There were many hours and hard work by the Board and the helping hand of the residents giving their support. We now can enjoy a more beautiful Tiara.

    Shirley and Al

  • reveritt says:

    Mike thanks for the editoral on the history of Tiara during the hurricanes. It was interesting to see all the devastating damage of what can happen with a hurricane. We tend to forget what it looked like when we enjoy all of the beauty we now have. Thanks to all the board members and people who gave their time back then to make our condo like new.

    Nancy Everitt

  • jmikesh says:

    Thank you so much, Mike, for the fantastic job you did on putting this story together with the unbelieveable photos! It’s amazing how far we’ve come since that terrible disaster! This is a wonderful record of the devastating hurricanes that hit Tiara back in 2004! Nancy Mikesh

  • pathettche says:

    Mike, wonderful stories abut Tiara’s history . Thanks for all the time and effort it took to accomplish the stories.

  • pgustaitis says:

    Great job, Mike! I have suggested in the past that new owners and Board members should see what Tiara had to deal with during the hurricanes. Very informative – Pat

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