updated 12/30/2004 12:28:00 PM ET 2004-12-30T17:28:00

Viewers have been writing MSNBC.com to share what they thought the biggest story of 2004 was. Below, are some entries on the hurricane season of 2004, and its effect on Florida:

Undoubtedly, one of America's top stories was the hurricane season of 2004. Its effect on lives, financial fortunes, meteorological history, Florida agriculture, and the housing and insurance industries, will be felt for months— if not years to come.

Florida was teased in the press this past summer as, "The Plywood State." But, for the remainder of 2004 and a good portion of 2005, it will be known as, "The Tarpaulin State."  As one drives around neighborhoods throughout central Florida, and along what is known as the "I-4 Corridor," the homes and buildings still requiring roof repair is evident from those ubiquitous blue coverings. A quilt-like landscape is very noticeable looking down from the air.

By far the mid-coastal regions of the Florida peninsula and "Gold Coast" stretch of its Panhandle beaches took the brunt and fury of the four catastrophic events.  But, also evident was the damage and life altering affect the storms had on the interior of Florida, including cities like Orlando and Tallahassee. I live in a suburb of Orlando where I spent the better part of August and September 2004 without electricity. 

The night of 13 August— a Friday night— we watched our window glass flex while the 100 mph winds of Hurricane Charley howled in the darkness outside. My grandson cowered in his daddy's arms, in their home down the street, as great crashing noises ruptured the night air. When we awoke on Saturday morning, there was an eerie stillness I hadn't experienced since Hurricane Camille when I was stationed in the Navy outside New Orleans. The usual chirping of insects and birds was gone.

As we looked around our immediate neighborhood, we where numbed by the sight of hundreds of beautiful oak and laurel trees toppled and strewn across homes, yards, and vehicles. In the months after our season ended, tens upon tens of thousands of these majestic giants have been hauled away and grounded into mulch or burned.

On the coast, countless homes and businesses not destroyed by devastating winds or a tidal surge have subsequently been slipping away into the Gulf and Atlantic, as sand and earth beneath them collapses and washes away with each high tide.  Thousands of structures have been undermined by this "force de nature"— a combined might not seen in the U.S. in nearly one hundred years.

Floridian's are a resilient lot, though. The daytime sound of power saws and nail guns is evidence that we are gradually returning to a normal routine.

But, for thousands of folks, in towns with names like Punta Gorda and Indian River, celebrating the holidays in government-provided mobile homes and other make-do structures, is not the way they envisioned living their retirement years in "The Sunshine State."  —Rob Muirhead, Altamonte Springs, Fla.

Friday, August 13, 2004... that is a day I will always remember.  It was the first, and most violent hurricane of the year.  Hurricane Charley hit my community with a vengenence.  We moved to Punta Gorda from the Chicago area only 8 months prior to Charley.  We bought our dream house, bought all new furniture and thought we were moving to paradise. 

Our home was severly damaged and we are still in the process of rebuilding.  But what touched me more than the damage to my home was the outpouring of others who came to Southwest Florida to help us through these trying times.  I will never forget the Red Cross volunteers and the army here in the blazing heat helping the lost souls here.  Our community will rebuild but what Hurricane Charley also brought will never be forgotten— caring, loyalty, compassion.  This will be my paradise for more than the climate now.  —Donna Zajdlik, Punta Gorda, Fla.

The hurricanes that hit Florida were definitely the story of 2004 here in Florida. Little did I realize that when I went to assist the victims of Hurricane Charley recover in Arcadia, that a few short weeks later , I would be the one without power and with damage to my residence.
The jobs the residents of Florida and volunteers from other states did were important to our recovery. Still, 5 months later, some places are still without power, awaiting insurance claim settlement checks, or struggling to regain lost business.

This was the worst series of storms to hit one state in over 100 years. The fact that life has return to somewhat normal in most of the state is a credit to the residents, many of whom learned firsthand the value of neighborhood pride and unity. Let’s hope hurricanes are never again the story in the coming years.  —John Tate, Jupiter, Fla.

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