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22 Years After Andrew

By: Bryan Norcross , 7:39 PM GMT on August 24, 2014

It was late this afternoon 22 years ago - August 24, 1992, that we got our first look at what had happened about 12 hours before when Hurricane Andrew blasted South Dade. Early that morning as the winds were dying down, about 7:00 AM as I recall, the Mayor of Miami, Xavier Suarez, came by the WTVJ studio to, essentially, assure us that Miami had survived.

He said he had gotten reports from around the city that things were okay, but I said something like, "we haven't heard yet from Homestead and Cutler Ridge and Goulds and points south. We cannot assume that that means that things are good there." I knew it had to be bad... but didn't know how bad.

Before the storm, we had sent the helicopter, Sky 4, off somewhere, I don't remember where - the Palm Beaches stick in my mind. (Thankfully we didn't park it at Tamiami Airport.) By the time we got it in the air we were getting a picture of a very bad situation in South Dade... but the shots from the air still stunned us all.

Someone has posted an excellent copy of the video, "Hurricane Andrew: As It Happened". I've seen pieces of it a number of times, of course, but had not watched the whole two hours in many years. Once you start, it's hard to stop. Here's the link:


Those first aerials come in at about 30 minutes into the video.

The video was put together by Scott Siebers. Scott was a young producer when I met him in early 1990 when I joined WTVJ. We had decided that I should continue doing the history stories that I had been doing as part of Neighborhood Weather on WPLG Channel 10 for the previous 5 years, but since I was going to start doing the weather at 5, 530, 6, and 11 that July, I was going to need help, which meant assigning a producer.

Coincidentally, WTVJ was closing down production on a local magazine show they did for years called Montage. Scott was part of that team, and so the management asked me to meet with him and see if he could be my producer. The first time I met I knew he was something special.

We started by working on the history of Miami hurricanes, which I had studied through the 80s for Neighborhood Weather stories. That turned into a 2 1/2 year effort to ask every agency - the cities, counties, school systems, Coast Guard, NHC, etc. - what they would do if one of those big hurricanes came again. Except for the NHC, what we found was a city that was not ready for history to repeat itself. So we set out to learn as much as we could, just in case.

Ironically, Scott was on vacation when Hurricane Andrew hit. But as soon as he got back he got to work on the video. It was a monumental effort to go through days and days of footage to assemble "As It Happened". His skill and passion shine through. Today Scott is responsible for a lot of the great stuff you see on ESPN.

We sold each VHS tape for $10. I recall the sales total approaching 120,00 tapes, which would mean it went Platinum. The money went to a magnificent charity called "We Will Rebuild" run by the Alvah Chapman Jr., the former chairman of Knight-Ridder newspapers. There was never a project too big for Alvah. And nobody did big things better.

In the video you'll see the work of an amazing array of extraordinarily skilled people at WTVJ. A couple of the famous ones are, of course, Kerry Sanders of NBC News and David Bloom, who unbelievably died covering the Iraq war. But there were also people in front of and behind the camera that were great broadcasters and intimately knew their city. Without that highly proficient and dedicated team, we could not have provided the service we did through Hurricane Andrew, or generated the coverage you see in the video.

If you weren't there, 22 years seems like a long time. But if you were, I bet you can see it and feel it like it was just yesterday.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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2. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
3:36 AM GMT on September 05, 2014
bnorcross has created a new entry.
1. hurricane23
7:54 PM GMT on August 24, 2014
Indeed bryan thanks to you many of us made it through that horrific night still feels like it was yesterday. Enjoy watching you on the weather channel but wish you were still here in Miami.
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