PUNTA GORDA, Fla. – Don Paterson was sitting in his kitchen when Hurricane Charley (search) did a "half-twist" on his single-wide trailer.
It sent the microwave oven flying into his head, "then the refrigerator came down on top of me. Then I'm pinned. And then a huge gust came, and I'm unpinned."
Paterson, a 68-year-old Army veteran, made it out of his home and weathered the storm behind a riding lawn mower. Debris hit the machine like shrapnel.
His home destroyed, Paterson walked along Taylor Road with a dazed look and blood trickling from several head wounds.
"Happy Friday the 13th," he said.
Charley delivered its bad luck especially hard to Punta Gorda (search), a city of 15,000 about 80 miles southeast of Tampa, and other parts of Charlotte County. About 50 injured people came to a Punta Gorda hospital, but it was so badly damaged officials had to send patients to other facilities via Coast Guard (search) helicopters.
At a nursing center north of Punta Gorda in Port Charlotte, Charley broke windows and ripped off portions of the roof, but none of the more than 100 residents or staff was injured, administrator Joyce Cuffe said.
"The doors were being sucked open," administrator Joyce Cuffe said. "A lot of us were holding the doors, trying to keep them shut, using ropes, anything we could to hold the doors shut. There was such a vacuum, our ears and head were hurting."
About 100 shelters were open in Florida, and more were expected to open, Red Cross spokeswoman Carol Miller said.
"People seem to be calm. They're well organized," she said by phone from Charlotte County.
But even in shelters, things could get frightening.
In Arcadia, about 25 miles northeast of Punta Gorda, the roof blew off a civic center serving as a shelter for 1,200 people. At least one person was hurt.
"You could hear this popping and zipping noise like a giant Ziploc bag," said Alida Dejongh.
Newspapers in Charley's path were determined to go to press Friday.
The Charlotte Sun, which was in the direct path of the storm, was forced to evacuate from its building near Charlotte Harbor, said Buddy Martin, the newspaper's managing editor.
Martin, who was home when the storm hit, said he had been unable to reach his colleagues late Friday and believed they were operating from a local telephone company owned by the newspaper company.
The eye of the storm also passed over the barrier island community of Sanibel, where about 100 people refused to evacuate.
Cheryl and Robert Anderson said they stayed because they both felt ill, and also wanted to stay with their six birds. Cheryl Anderson said the hurricane, which knocked off her chimney, sounded just like the tornado she survived as a child in Missouri but lasted a lot longer.
"I wouldn't recommend it," said Cheryl Anderson, 59, guest relations manager for a resort. "As I was sitting in the bathtub I was asking, 'Why am I doing this?"'
The hurricane had been forecast to hit the more heavily populated Tampa area, which was spared when the storm took a turn to the east. Residents filled sandbags, boarded up windows, filled up shelters and made a run on gas stations in the morning, but many were headed home before sunset.
In the Florida Keys, tourists also had been told to evacuate, but the storm brushed by the island chain Friday morning, with winds up to 50 mph and drenching rain. The Monroe County Sheriff's Department reported periodic power outages.
"I guess we got lucky," said Wayne Rainboth, sitting atop a ladder as he removed plywood from the front of Jack Flats, a bar and restaurant in Key West. The establishment planned to reopen later in the day.