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Hurricane Andrew - 21 Years Ago Tonight

By: Bryan Norcross , 4:48 AM GMT on August 24, 2013

It's just after midnight on August 24th. For those of you that were in South Florida, 21 years ago tonight was a night you'll never forget... and, of course, it was the same for me. At this point, it was clear that Hurricane Andrew was going to be about as bad as any hurricane could be for the part of South Florida that would be hit. And it was clear it was going to happen in Dade County. We had predicted on the air that the winds would pick up around midnight, and that's what happened. That was the point that everyone needed to stay wherever they were and simply, though nothing was simple, ride it out.

Not long after midnight, I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what people could do in their homes to stay as safe as possible. That was when I remembered the book I had read some years before written by L.F. Reardon about his and his family's experiences in the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926. He put his kids in a laundry washtub and put a mattress over them. That had never come to my mind after reading the book, but it came to my mind 21 years ago tonight. Thankfully many of your took that advice... and the mattress made all the difference.

It's hard to imagine, but the hurricane problem is worse today than it was in 1992. There are many more people with much bigger and more expensive property than existed 21 years ago... and our communications systems are much more precarious. In 1992, everybody had a transistor radio and, in spite of the incredible damage, many landline phones in South Dade were still working after the storm. Today, if the cell and internet service goes out, which it likely will in a major hurricane, most people will be stranded without any communications, in or out.

I'm hoping that Hurricane Andrew veterans will make it a mission to be sure that all of their friends and neighbors understand that the worst DOES happen. Encourage them to think ahead and be prepared. If you went through Andrew you know that how you prepare makes a tremendous difference. You can make a difference if you share that knowledge and experience.

For those of you that went through it in South Dade, it was a pivot. Life changed direction and was divided into Before Andrew and After Andrew. And it happened at 4:00 am, August 24, 1992... 21 years ago tonight.

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15. lilElla
7:20 PM GMT on August 30, 2013
I live in Wisconsin. The night Andrew hit Florida, I was listening to my Dads Grundig Shortwave radio, searching for the 50K watt AM stations. I do not remember if the station was out of Miami or Orlando, but I layed awake all night, listening. My heart was breaking for all of the people in Florida that were living through such devastation. I have often wondered if it was you that I was listening to. The next night I was able to pull in a signal from New Orleans and listened again as Andrew was making its 2nd landfall. It was this experience that got me interested in hurricanes and have been following tropical storms ever since.

Thank you for what you did that night and for all the lives you helped save!
Robyn
Member Since: December 5, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 281
14. RickWPB
2:51 PM GMT on August 30, 2013
Bryan, you were one of the heros that night for sure. I was working that night with the FAA but in West Palm Beach. We only had winds to 50 mph. The following two weekends about 12 or 15 FAA'ers put together a convoy of 7 vehicles with ice, water and a P/U truck full of sheets of plywood and tarps and drove down to help as best we could. We helped patch up roofs and handed out ice and water. I couldn't believe the damage I saw. One neighborhood (country walk?) had siding blown off that looked like Masonite that when wet, resembled wet cardboard and would fold in half when you tried to pick it up. It was the worse storm damage I've ever seen and I've lived here in WPB since 1959.

One image that has stuck with me all these years was a chain-link fence lying flat on the ground. The poles were the only part left and were bent flat on the ground with no chain-link left. Evidently the fence loaded up with debris and the wind just blew it flat and links went flying.

Thanks for your service to the community!
Member Since: September 26, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 392
13. Bryan Norcross , Hurricane Specialist
2:26 AM GMT on August 30, 2013
I took the WTVJ helicopter south from Watson Island that Thursday morning, 3 days after the storm. We stopped somewhere near UM to pick up Dr. Bob Sheets and took off for the destruction zone. It was stunning... SW 120th Street was the dividing line between the area where many buildings were inhabitable and almost nothing was intact.

The view across South Dade was indescribable. By then I had seen the pictures, but in person you could see the details. Everywhere you looked there was another breathtaking scene. I knew South Dade well... for years I had done TV from the helicopter. But now there were no landmarks, no trees, no nothing recognizable. We hunted and hunted to try to find Bob's house. Finally we did, and it survived better than most. He had put good shutters on the windows.

But, of course, as bad as it looked from the air, it was worse on the ground. There was no law and no order... and no food. Families with little means were stuck, living in the surviving corners of bombed out houses.

It took two years before every day was not about the hurricane for me, and my house made it with minor damage. For folks that went through the worst of Andrew, it took much longer than that.

But, there was a tremendous amount of insurance money to help speed the recovery and many areas of South Dade were agricultural. Neither, of course, would be the case if it happened again.

Member Since: August 24, 2012 Posts: 48 Comments: 8
12. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
1:28 AM GMT on August 30, 2013
bnorcross has created a new entry.
11. georgevandenberghe
2:45 AM GMT on August 29, 2013
Quoting 10. georgevandenberghe:
And in DC I just worry about tornadoes. Other weather risks are small. I have trouble imagining how I would keep my sanity if I knew there was always a significant possibility that my community would be devastated and my house destroyed by a large area weather or geologic event (the tornado risk is bad enough). If I lived in the midwest I'd worry even more about severe weather.




A catagory 2 hurricane taking a track similar to Hazel would be devastating here. A track slightly more west of north and west of the Potomac would bring a hideous storm surge not experienced since the DC area was settled which would be a "surprise" to too many here. My home is 2000 feet from a river that is not tidal
and has not flooded to my area since THAT was settled so I'm at least safe from surge and freshwater flooding
Member Since: February 1, 2012 Posts: 19 Comments: 4136
10. georgevandenberghe
2:41 AM GMT on August 29, 2013
And in DC I just worry about tornadoes. Other weather risks are small. I have trouble imagining how I would keep my sanity if I knew there was always a significant possibility that my community would be devastated and my house destroyed by a large area weather or geologic event (the tornado risk is bad enough). If I lived in the midwest I'd worry even more about severe weather.


Member Since: February 1, 2012 Posts: 19 Comments: 4136
9. gulfshoresAL
12:43 PM GMT on August 26, 2013
Quoting 6. bnorcross:
I lived in the northern part of Coconut Grove, just south of downtown, so out of the main storm zone. The house had shutters so mostly it was okay... just some superficial damage but no big deal. More a big cleanup. The hardest part about getting home was the threes and light poles that were down. I had to drive over curbs and people's lawns to get through. Fortunately I had an SUV at the time. The power was only out for 4 days, so overall I was lucky.
Bryan, I lived in South Beach during Andrew. I worked for Delta Air Lines and sent the last flight out of MIA Airport the night before. We had an employee that had lost her husband shortly before that and several of us went to her house for Andrew so she would not be alone. Her house was Several miles Southwest of the UM campus. I remember that we where all watching you when you said it was time to hunker down. We got into closets for 2-3 hours and lots of trees down and power lines.
My family members (10) went to my niece which lived in Country Walk. The house was totally destroyed. They all survived in a bathroom on the bottom floor with mathresses around them. My brothers house which was in the Perrine area was totally leveled.
Thank you for your guidance during and after the storm.
Member Since: June 20, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 36
8. Christopher C. Burt , Weather Historian
4:47 AM GMT on August 26, 2013
Quoting 7. MisterPerfect:
I traveled south on US1 from Coral Gables in the late morning on that day. The damage got worse and worse the further south I went. Cutler Ridge (now Cutler Bay) was a warzone. I did not continue further south, figuring I should save the gasoline.

Last month I went back to Miami Metro Zoo (now Zoo Miami). All of the pine trees in that area are 20 year old trees now. Their ancestors were knocked down like matchsticks by the thousands. Using the growth of the young trees is a good way to gauge the time it takes for the ecosystem to recover from nature's wrecking ball.

Thank you again, Bryan, for all you do for South Florida. Past, present and future.


Interesting what you said about how it takes 20 years for flora to regenerate. I lived in the Oakland fire zone (worst urban wild fire in U.S. history Oct. 20, 1991). My home just missed the the edge of the fire by 300 feet. I still live here and the line between the fire zone and not is still clear as as can be by looking at the trees that line our streets here in the Rockridge district of Oakland, CA. I still pinch myself how lucky I was to JUST miss the firestorm by a matter of a few hundred feet.
Member Since: February 15, 2006 Posts: 334 Comments: 324
7. MisterPerfect
2:28 PM GMT on August 25, 2013
I traveled south on US1 from Coral Gables in the late morning on that day. The damage got worse and worse the further south I went. Cutler Ridge (now Cutler Bay) was a warzone. I did not continue further south, figuring I should save the gasoline.

Last month I went back to Miami Metro Zoo (now Zoo Miami). All of the pine trees in that area are 20 year old trees now. Their ancestors were knocked down like matchsticks by the thousands. Using the growth of the young trees is a good way to gauge the time it takes for the ecosystem to recover from nature's wrecking ball.

Thank you again, Bryan, for all you do for South Florida. Past, present and future.
Member Since: November 1, 2006 Posts: 72 Comments: 20205
6. Bryan Norcross , Hurricane Specialist
2:16 PM GMT on August 25, 2013
I lived in the northern part of Coconut Grove, just south of downtown, so out of the main storm zone. The house had shutters so mostly it was okay... just some superficial damage but no big deal. More a big cleanup. The hardest part about getting home was the threes and light poles that were down. I had to drive over curbs and people's lawns to get through. Fortunately I had an SUV at the time. The power was only out for 4 days, so overall I was lucky.
Member Since: August 24, 2012 Posts: 48 Comments: 8
5. nigel20
9:00 PM GMT on August 24, 2013
Thanks Mr. Norcross!
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 14 Comments: 9156
4. rgibbs3885
5:19 PM GMT on August 24, 2013
Welcome back to the blog! Has been too long...
Member Since: September 22, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 8
3. BaltimoreBrian
5:05 AM GMT on August 24, 2013
Mr Norcross what was it like for you when you were done reporting at the station and had to go home? What did you find?
Member Since: August 9, 2011 Posts: 27 Comments: 12278
2. GTstormChaserCaleb
5:01 AM GMT on August 24, 2013
Thank You Mr. Norcross. Just seeing pictures on the internet of the devastation left behind by Andrew had me awe struck. I know today the building codes have improved from that time, but still yet a Category 5 taking the same path Andrew did would be enough to cause significant damage, regardless of how much that has improved. Good advice to those who went through Andrew and puts things into perspective which is that one day things can be going smooth for you and the next day the whole world is turned upside down. You are right though be prepared ahead of time and "prepare for the worst and hope for the best." Have a goodnight, sir.
Member Since: June 30, 2013 Posts: 12 Comments: 9869
1. Patrap
4:59 AM GMT on August 24, 2013
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 439 Comments: 137215

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