The National Hurricane Center issued its forecast for the 2005 storm season on Monday, predicting three to five major hurricanes between June and November. But walking through the debris left by Hurricane Charley, it's clear that many residents are still trying to cope with last year's mess.
New state color: blue
In Florida, the new state color appears to be blue. Nine months after a record four hurricanes struck the state, residents here are still living under makeshift blue plastic roofs.
"It's just a horrible way to live," said Amy Adams as she walked through the wreckage of her home.
"There's not a room in this house that hasn't been affected. We have some rooms that leak, we have multiple rooms with mold, we have rooms where the ceiling is crumbling down," she said.
She is among the more than 100,000 still living in misery. "It's been a rough year. It's been a really rough year," said Adams.
As Florida enters its rainy season, Floridians are bracing for the worst.
“I can't even believe that hurricane season is on us again,” said Adams. “It doesn't even feel like I've begun to recover from last year.”
Roofs still missing
One major challenge has been literally putting roofs over people’s heads.
Roofers estimate it will take two years before houses here are all patched up.
“I just recently got a new roof put on. That took almost eight months,” said John Melley, a Punta Gorda homeowner. “I got tired of putting on tarps. I got tired of my wife being upset and water constantly coming into the house.”
Melley bemoaned the cost and wait to get a roof repaired, saying it’s a “contractor’s market.”
Barry Mallory, owner of Mallory and Sons Roofing, has reroofed 200 homes so far and says there is just too much work to handle. "We quit taking new work and contracts months ago,” said Mallory.
"Everyday, it's [work] before daylight, until way after dark, and it's been going on like that for months,” he said.
"I'm a Floridian, born and raised, and it's the worst [hurricane season] I've ever seen,” said Mallory.
Clean-up never ending
And then there is the cleanup. There are piles of debris everywhere.
"Almost nine months after the hurricane and it looks like the morning after,” said Wayne Sallade, director of emergency management for Charlotte County, Fla. “That is real scary."
In Charlotte County alone, Hurricane Charley created enough debris to fill more than 250,000 dump trucks.
"If that debris of a storm-damaged home is laying there and we have a storm come by, it's going to pick up that loose wood, that loose concrete and it's gonna throw it at somebody else's house,” said Sallade.
The federal government estimates that more than 700,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in Florida last year.
On Florida's Gulf Coast, Tiffany Sanchez and thousands of others are still living in government-sponsored temporary housing. "I'm not the only one thinking about the hurricane season coming up,” said Sanchez.
With hurricane season beginning in two weeks, Floridians say they don't know how they will fare if another hurricane makes landfall again this year.