Harry A. Evans
On August 24, 1992 Hurricane Andrew slammed into the South Florida, devastating Homestead, Florida City and parts of Miami, then continued northwest across the Gulf of Mexico to strike Louisiana coastline.
In all, the storm caused 15 deaths directly, 25 deaths indirectly and $30 billion in property damage, making it the costliest disaster in U.S. History. More than 250,000 people were left homeless; 82,000 businesses were destroyed or damaged; about 100,000 residents of South Dade County permanently left eh area in Andrew’s wake. Andrew also had a serve impact on the environment it damaged 33 percent of the coral reefs at Biscayne National Park, and 90 percent of South Dade’s hammocks. It also created 30 years worth of debris.
Hurricane Andrew is the second most destructive hurricane in United States history, Hurricane Andrew was the first named hurricane of the 1992 Atlantic hurricane season, and it struck in August. Andrew damaged areas in the northwestern Bahamas, South Central Florida area, south of Miami.
Hurricane Andrew’s Beginnings. Andrew started as a tropical wave from Africa, which spawned a tropical depression, which then became Tropical Storm Andrew the next day. The storm actually almost dissipated on August 20, but then when it was midway between Bermuda and Puerto Rico, it began turning westward into a much more favorable environment. Andrew made landfall twice while it was moving through the Bahamas. The storm then was made weakened after it made landfall the second time. It maintained strong winds though and the pressure kept rising. However while it was crossing the Gulf Stream, it gained strength quickly and became a category 5 hurricane briefly while it made landfall over South Florida on August 24, with the pressure being at 922 mbar and wind speeds of 165 miles per hour. Hurricane Andrew then continued in the westward direction, towards the Gulf of Mexico, as a Category 4 hurricane, where it then gradually turned north. This brought the hurricane to central Louisiana’s coast on August 26th, by then though it was only a Category 3. It then turned north east and merged with a front system over the Mid Atlantic States.
The following recounts of Hurricane Andrew are from the Metro Dade Fire Services which is a 1.400 member department. It is the largest fire rescue department in the South east, serving 700 square miles with a population of over two million people. Metro Dade is responsible for all Dade County, Florida. The county has four other smaller departments, all which are part of a mutual aid agreement with Metro Dade.
Metro Dade had advised that the 911 system did stay up during the hurricane. But by the time they were able to respond, they had 150 calls pending. It was very stressful for everyone we had to tell people that we just couldn’t get out of our stations.
During the storm Metro Dade was getting calls for people falling off roofs, and hit by debris, also a 10 year old in respiratory distress. But Metro Dade could not respond.
Metro Dade created task force teams, and divided the county into grids. Each team was responsible for primary search and rescue for their grid. They had to complete one grad each day, going door to door, talking to neighbors who might know of any missing people.
Lessons were also learned. “Our biggest problem was handling the logistics of mutual aid, says Chief Paulison. We had units from all over the Southeast. Some didn’t check in, but just went right to work. Early on, we had problems finding out just how many rescues we had to work with. The issue with so many calls resulting from people who hurt themselves while trying to clean up or rebuild their homes.
Disaster Medical Assistance teams (DMATs) help in Andrew’s aftermath. One team recalls their work area as a “War Zone” these are the words that described our home for the next eight days. The few trees left standing were shredded....
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