MIAMI (CBS4) – While South Florida breathes a sigh of relief concerning Hurricane Irene, now a Category 3 storm, heading toward the east coast, many also remember this day, 19-years ago, when Hurricane Andrew smashed into South Florida causing billions in damage and dozens of deaths.
It was 1992 when Hurricane Andrew, packing Category 5 strength, struck South Florida. Andrew was the first named storm of the season and only major hurricane to form in 1992. It made landfall in Homestead and devastated the area to the tune of more than $30 billion in damages.
When Andrew roared ashore with 150 mph winds, nobody realized it was a Category 5 monster, capable of blowing down buildings as if they were a house of cards. 26 people died as a direct result of the storm; a quarter of a million South Floridians were made homeless overnight. Homes, condos, and commercial properties were destroyed. It served as a vivid reminder that our building code was being ignored, too many corners cut to keep up with South Florida’s growth. It was one of the most powerful hurricanes of the century and was catastrophic for its economic impact.
President George H.W. Bush declared a large part of south Florida a disaster area.
Sporadic looting occurred in evacuated areas of South Florida, but was prevented from escalating by local law enforcement and the National Guard.
Images of the aftermath were surreal. Row upon row of houses looked as if they’d been crushed by giants or leveled by bombs. Entire subdivisions were reduced to seas of broken boards and shattered glass.
Hurricane Andrew’s legacy is the economic toll it took on the state of Florida. Until Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Andrew was the costliest natural disaster in United States history, causing an estimated $30 billion worth of damage.