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Optimism Rules In Homestead 25 Years After Hurricane Andrew

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Twenty years ago, Hurricane Andrew, the worst natural disaster in the U.S. history demolished South Miami- Dade.

In Homestead, several hundred gathered to remember.

“The devastation was so bad that morning we heard it and felt it, our house was shaking,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Andrew destroyed or heavily damaged 128,000 homes and tens of thousands of businesses.

The air force base, the economic jet engine of homestead, was destroyed.

“We went from 8,000 uniforms to about 400 overnight,” said Wilbur Bell.

Over 25 years, the companies have come back up.

“As far as my business is concerned, we have about 550 families who make a living out of our business,” said Rene Infante with the Economic Development Council.

Andrew left zoo a zoo.

“These animals survived, but the facility was destroyed,” said Zoo Miami Communications Dir. Ron Magill. “We have to move so many animals out of the zoo to get them located around the country at other zoos to protect them.”

At a time, the police were doing more than police work.

“People had to be recovered from the rubble. It was grueling for all of us,” said Miami-Dade Police Maj. Leo Ricelli.

To Andrew the houses were like straw, and that’s changed.

“The building standards have improved, more rigorous enforcement, and nobody should complain. Be thankful for that,” said Ros-Lehtinen.

The crumbling tower system was flattened by Andrew and subsequent storms.

“We have invested over $3 billion to improve the infrastructure,” said Marie Bertot with FPL.

FPL says computers are watching every pole and wire in real time across South Florida.

And 25 years later in Homestead optimism rules.

“We have not only recovered but we are on the path to greatness,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava.

At the Harris Field in Homestead there is Hurricane Andrew history – thousands of displaced residents were housed in tents here after the storm hit.

On Thursday, dignitaries gathered to dedicate the just completed $2.1 million athletic facility at the Harris Field Park.

This project, a joint venture of Homestead and the Orange Bowl Committee, emblematic of the rebuilding of South Dade – unveiled on this quarter-century anniversary of that terrible day.

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