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Hurricane Andrew


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August 25, 1992: DESTRUCTION AT DAWN

 

ANDREW LEFT PATH OF RUBBLE, PAIN 10 KILLED IN DADE; MANY FACE WEEK OR MORE WITHOUT POWER

 

MARK SILVA, CHARLES STROUSE AND JOHN DONNELLY

 

Herald Staff Writers

 

 

Hurricane Andrew, which killed at least 10 people in Dade County, knocked out power to 1.3 million households, punished South Dade and changed the very nature of the region, left a cleanup job Monday of nightmarish dimensions.

 

 

At least three others died in the Bahamas.

 

 

President Bush came to Miami for a firsthand look at a hurricane expected to cost more than Hugo.

 

 

Andrew's eye hit shore near Florida City, 25 miles south of downtown Miami, at 4:52 a.m., descending with wind gusts up to 168 miles per hour. It roared across the state to Fort Myers and swept into the Gulf of Mexico, its next victim uncertain. A hurricane warning was posted from Pascagoula, Miss., to Vermilion Bay, La.

 

 

The killer, still whirling 140 mph winds, was expected to reach land again sometime tonight or Wednesday morning.

 

 

In Andrew's wake here, power may be out a week or more in some sections of South Dade, the county imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew to fight growing instances of looting and the president pledged an immediate $50 million in federal disaster aid -- even before his two-hour stop in Miami.

 

 

"My heart goes out to the people of Florida," Bush said.

 

 

By far, the worst damage was from Kendall south to Florida City.

 

 

Homestead Air Force Base was one casualty: every building was either destroyed or damaged, said Navy Cmdr. Mike Thurwanger in Washington. The base commander told his 6,500 military and 1,000 civilians workers to stay away for at least five days.

 

 

"Homestead Air Force Base no longer exists," said Toni Riordan of the state Community Affairs Department.

 

 

Broward and Palm Beach counties suffered widespread power shortages and downed trees. The Keys escaped relatively unscathed, with the greatest damage in Key Largo.

 

 

In South Dade, Andrew tossed roofs off houses, leveled self-storage warehouses, mowed down trees and chewed up nurseries' black ground tarps.

 

 

"It's like an air bomb went off," Gov. Lawton Chiles said after a helicopter tour. "Complete devastation . . . Homestead has got to be rebuilt."

 

 

Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., who took the 85-minute helicopter tour with Chiles, has toured every Florida hurricane since 1979. He called Andrew the worst he has seen: "There are going to be thousands of families with no place to live. And that's not for a few days. That's for a long time."

 

 

Another measuring stick: On Monday afternoon, Metro- Dade police counted more than 50 roads blocked by fallen trees and power lines in Dade County.

 

 

Police also pinpointed four especially hard-hit areas in South Dade: Country Walk at Coral Reef Drive and 137th Avenue; Devonaire, 112th Street and 112th Avenue; the Crossings, 104th Street and 127th Avenue; and the Hammocks, Coral Reef Drive and 112th Street.

 

 

Still, as bad as it was, Andrew could have been worse.

 

 

An expected storm surge bringing a wall of water over Miami Beach and Key Biscayne never materialized. Of the one million residents ordered evacuated, nearly 700,000 obeyed, including 84,000 who stayed in four dozen shelters. And phone service remained for the vast majority.

 

 

While the South Florida death toll stood at 10 Monday night, there's a "probability we will find others," said Willie Alvarez, chief of Metro Fire Rescue Department. The only person identified was Jesse James, 46, of Miami, who spent the night in an abandoned truck and was hit by a tree. The other nine: seven

 

from South Dade, one from Coral Gables and one from North Dade.

 

 

Fire-rescue received between 900 and 1,200 calls, three to four times the usual rate.

 

 

In terms of sheer wind speed, Andrew was the worst to hit Miami since 1926, said forecaster Max Mayfield at the National Hurricane Center.

 

 

Damage assessment teams were fanning out on the ground, but the best understanding of Andrew's wrath was seen by air.

 

 

From the plane that carried Graham and Chiles, an emerging picture of destruction:

 

 

Downtown Miami, broken office windows.

 

 

Around the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, splotchy roof tiles.

 

 

South Miami and Coral Gables, huge ficus trees uprooted, some shingles stripped from roofs, roofs torn.

 

 

Kendall, pool coverings ripped up, nearly every tree denuded, shingles off roofs.

 

 

Around Miami Southridge High School, whole neighborhoods affected, halves of roofs gone, rooms in homes exposed to the sky, lumber lying around like toothpicks.

 

 

Rural South Dade, nurseries shredded, trees snapped.

 

 

Naranja Lakes area, the first mobile home park decimated.

 

 

Homestead and Florida City, much in rubble, fields flooded with creamy tannish water.

 

 

The plane swung back north and hugged the coastline.

 

 

In South Dade, a business casualty: the windows were blown out on the ocean-side of Burger King's corporate headquarters.

 

 

Bill Baggs State Park on the southern tip of Key Biscayne, the Australian pines flattened.

 

 

Miami Beach, a noted absence of flooding.

 

 

And all along Biscayne Bay, an eerie truth of Andrew having its way: All the sea grasses are in straight lines, all leaning to the west.

 

 

What's next?

 

 

Florida Power & Light expects power outages to last days to more than a week for sections of South Dade. Health officials issued a boil-water order for the Miami area.

 

 

County Manager Joaquin Avino Monday declared a countywide curfew from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The National Guard was called in to help.

 

 

Police say they hope the rule will stop looters and help emergency crews. Police spokesman Donald Blocker said anyone except emergency workers like nurses and tree cutters stopped outside after 7 p.m. will likely be arrested. Decisions about continuing the curfew will be made on a day-to-day basis.

 

 

Looters preyed on dozens of locations, but the thievery was scattered and not widespread by 9 p.m. Monday. Among the early targets: Cutler Ridge Mall, South Dade Shopping Center and the Circuit City at 19711 S. Dixie Highway. Four businesses in Little Haiti also reported looting.

 

 

Dade parks workers will spend weeks, if not months, cleaning up the debris. County Parks Director Bill Bird toured a half-dozen county parks and said "it seemed like half the damned trees were down in every park we visited. And it's going to cost millions to clean this up."

 

 

Many millions.

 

 

Wallace E. Stickney, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, flew to South Florida. Before he left Washington, Stickney said: "This will turn out to be one of the top three or four storms of the century."

 

 

The storm was the same intensity as Hurricane Hugo, which left 85 people dead and $5.9 billion in damage as it swept through the Caribbean and into the Carolinas in 1989. Hugo hit largely rural areas.

 

 

Andrew, like Hugo, brought neighbors together.

 

 

On San Esteban Avenue in Coral Gables, Duffie Matson revved up his 1974 Chevy Blazer onto a street stacked with timber from uprooted black olives, jacarandas and Florida holly.

 

 

Neighbors tied a chain to the Blazer's bumper and Matson ripped the limbs off the street and onto tree lawns. The kick- start cleanup invigorated some on the formerly tree-lined, tropical street.

 

 

"Now it's just a tropical disaster area," said Joe Hoyt after he used a machete to hack off the top of a fallen coconut palm. "I will cry later, I will. This place will never be the same again. Never."

 

 

Herald staff writers Joseph Tanfani, Mindy Marques, Jon O'Neill, David J. Neal and Grace Lim contributed to this story.

 

 

I remember driving to Key Largo to collect belongings from a home down there and my mother crying at the sight of the flattened Earth from Cutler Ridge to Florida City. Flat...it was like a bulldozer came in.

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Guest Fritz

That's the day my dad left my mom. They were getting a divorce and he was gonna be a GM for Roto-Rooter down in Miami to deal with that whole disaster. Not exactly my best memory, but vivid to say the least.

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well, i felt pretty safe living up in palm beach county. a couple trees were uprooted here and there, a bunch of power lines were knocked out, and so forth...but nothing major.

 

more than anything, i was pretty happy to not have to go to school. i think i played cards for awhile on that day.... hmm, and i pretended to be concerned about the hurricane to my grandma. it was a great big eh...

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I was only 2 but I have memories of the aftermath. My house got hit by the worst of Andrew (The northeast eyewall). Needless to say but I was saved by some chance of luck that my mom took me out of my room and not more than 5 minutes later, the window blew in and sprayed glass all over the place. It was also wierd because our house was the only on the street (92nd Ave and 144 St) that wasn't totally devestated. We were missing roof tiles and a couple walls and windows were gone but that was about it. All the homes were missing entire roofs and walls.

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I was 9 years old. I was sleeping for the first half and then my mom woke me up and brought me downstairs to the living room. My bed is right under the window so my mom was scared of having me sleep under it. My dad was awake in the living room listening to the battery-operated radio. We had no power whatsoever. We were sitting on the top step of the stairs and I fell asleep in the little hallway. I woke up at about 7 or 8 am and the hurricane was gone and clean up had begun in my neighborhood. We hadn't lost much but some shingles on the roof.

 

My brother-in-law's parents used to live near Metro Zoo and they were hit pretty hard and lost a bunch of valuable things. We went to their house in my dad's old van to see how they were holding up. My sister and brother-in-law drove down from Virginia to help them. It was amazing seeing what a hurricane can do. I remember it all pretty vividly. I don't think I can ever forget.

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Country Walk at Coral Reef Drive and 137th Avenue; Devonaire, 112th Street and 112th Avenue; the Crossings, 104th Street and 127th Avenue; and the Hammocks

 

 

I lived just north of Country Walk and East of the Crossings at 104th and 147th Ave and can remember being hit really hard. I woke up at around 3:30 in the morning to howling winds to this day I can remember so vividly. It sounded as a Freight train was just outside my house. We all gathered in the living room in front of my house because it was facing east. A few minutes later I remember my Dad saying we should all get into the master bedroom because we might have a better chance in there. No sooner that we all got in there, the sliding back door shattered and the wind was coming into the house.

 

 

My Dad braced the door shut with a heavy drawer and they covered the front window with a mattress. Soon after that, we heard the tree out in front fall down; lucky for us it fell forward and not backwards towards the house. I can remember being put in the closet with my brother and only having my walkman to the outside world as the storm got worse and worse. Well thank God I fell asleep almost 30 minutes later and by the time I woke up it was 7 in the morning. I woke up to the glasses in the back shattered, the roof tiles were all over, but thankfully the roof stayed on...and the trunk of a car in my backyard. The fences were down, the cars were damaged, but we were all alive.

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I remember it well, I live in Cutler Ridge.

 

I had finished shuttering up the house in the afternoon on Sunday, and Lisa (my wife) and I had tried getting some sleep around 10 pm before it hit. I woke up around midnight because Lisa screamed. Turns out a tree frog had come in with some of the potted plants and had jumped on her. (I remember her saying there was something wet and cold on her.....I told her it wasn't me :) ) She tried sleeping some more, but I stayed up to follow the news.

 

At 3:15 am, we lost power. I woke her up at that time. 15 minutes later, some decorative wood on the front of the house was ripped off and took one panel of a shutter with it (above our bed.) That window then got hit and broke one panel of glass, and that is all it took. Once the wind got into the house, it became a dominoe effect.

 

I said it was time to move, so we moved out of the living room to a back bedroom. Momments later the sliding glass doors in the living room went out. Water was running under the bedroom door, and the wind was really banging the closed door around (I was sitting up against it to reinforce it.) I had just finished telling Lisa that we would move to the closet in that room if anything else were to happen... I don't think I had fully finished that statement when one of those bedroom windows went. So we jumped in the closet with our two dogs and two cats (amazingly they decided not to have a turf war at the time.) The radio we were listening to was still outside the closet, so as water got to it, it went to static. Then the wind got so loud you couldn't have heard it anyway.

 

You keep hearing more and more crashing, not knowing what it is. You see water running down the walls and wonder if the entire roof will be coming off. When does it end? Funny part is, I never felt scared. My mind was too preoccupied wondering what the next move was going to be, always trying to update contingency plans in my head. Lisa wasn't thinking of those things, so she is still a bit out of it even during strong thunderstorms.

 

As the wind finally started dropping, and the first hints of daylight started to show through, I ventured out to survey the house...what a mess. We still had most of our windows and several rooms that only had water damage but were intact, so I got Lisa and the pets and moved them to one of those rooms. Had to still be carefull though due to all the broken glass floating through the 2 inches of water that was standing throughout the house.

 

I then started looking outside (it was easy since the glass doors were nice and open.) It was as though I had never seen this neighborhood before. What a scene. And that was by far the coldest rain I had felt in many, many years (I use to live in the Northeast.)

 

Turns out that the original bedroom window was one of the few that actually broke inward. The wind in the house caused the glass doors to bow and break outward, ripping the shutters out of the concrete walls because they acted like sails in the winds. Same was true for the bedroom we were in, the shutters were blown outward, not inward (large chunks of the concrete wall were ripped out where the lag anchors had been run into the walls to hold the railings for the shutters.) After things blew out, other things started blowing in, we actually had a large section of someone else's roof embedded in the living room wall farthest away from the glass doors (it somehow missed the 50 gallon fishtank I had there at the time...and BTW every fish survived though that and the recovery process...I still have two of them in a tank to this day.)

 

We were lucky, many people were hit much more than we were. We also recovered very quickly. Our contractors were friends of ours, and I did lots of work myself. By the time Christmas rolled around, we were 95% back to normal. 100% came when our dogs were able to come back because I finally got around to fencing in the yard again.

 

Interesting experience. Will still remain in the house if another storm comes through, especially since I have been able to apply the lessons learned from weaknesses during Andrew in order to make our home even stronger than it was before.

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Wow!

 

 

We live in Broward and I'm ashamed to say that we lost power for like 30 hours.

 

Many friends and relatives lived in the South. We took food and stuff to them almost immediately. What got to me were the sight-seers who just went south to view the devestation.

 

About 5 years later, I had the opportunity to go to Homestead for some work and couldn't help notice that some places of business still weren't recovered.

 

Sad- but many people didn't head the warnings.

 

One great thing that came out of it. We decided to get hurricane shutters and have had them ever since. I will never get a house that doesn't have them.

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Wow!

 

We live in Broward and I'm ashamed to say that we lost power for like 30 hours.

 

443383[/snapback]

 

We were out for exactly 1 month.

 

I did hook up a generator for part time power after the first few days. It made things a little easier, thats for sure.

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Guest marlins02

I remember driving to Key Largo

443175[/snapback]

give it a rest, cape.

 

the only thing you could have been driving on that day was a pink powerwheels convertible.

443244[/snapback]

 

thank you so much for pointing that out alk. :lol :lol

 

 

well i was about 8 when it happened living in carol city. i pretty much slept the whole night except once when i woke up and my grandparents were at the door and were looking at the part of the porch roof thta was still there. rest of the house was ok thankfully. spent the next 2 weeks without power in hot humid weather. it was wonderful :thumbdown

 

thankfully though it wasnt as bad as the experience those down south had.

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Guest marlins02

well i was about 8 when it happened living in carol city.443404[/snapback]

you grew up in carol city?

 

that explains so much. :hat

443413[/snapback]

 

:hat

 

well i lived there from birth till i was 10.

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I lived in front of FIU on Coral Way and SW 112 Ave.

 

Our house only suffered some blown off tiles and a leak in my bedroom. My neighborhood was spared, but just down the Turnpike it was totally gone.

 

It took the damn National Guard 4 days to get down from Bartow. Then they set up camp in Tamiami Park, started cleaning up, and shooting people on sight after curfew came.

 

During the storm we had a little TV my father had bought my mother as a present for the kitchen and I remember watching Norcross when the radar fell off. It was turning and down it stopped and started going backwards. That was scary. It was dark and now we were also blind. Thankfully Palm Beach hadn't gone done yet, but that radar went offline about 20 minutes later. Key West was then tapped and it soon lost power and went out. They ended up using Melbourne's radar up in Cape Canaveral to show us the eye of this monster in more detail. Unfortunately, while the TV station had access to that radar, the National Hurricane Center at UM couldn't. Thankfully after Andrew they built the new building at FIU and moved there where it would be easy to track storms even if they hit you.

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