In May of this year, Florida’s Biscayne National Park dedicated a plaque to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew. The plaque’s opening line reads, “On Monday, August 24,1992, at 4:30 A.M., the eye wall of Hurricane Andrew passed over this point before striking Homestead and southern Miami-Dade County.” (Biscayne National Park Plaque Commemorates 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew) That particular hurricane was by far one of the costliest disasters in this nation’s history and caused damages of more than forty billion dollars. This report presents a summary of hurricanes in general and the path of Hurricane Andrew. The massive amounts of damage in Florida are still a measuring standard by which we judge natural disasters. “With wind gusts exceeding 175 mph and a storm surge of nearly 17 feet, Andrew was also the third strongest land-falling hurricane to strike the United States during the last 100 years. In South Florida, 15 people were killed as a direct result of the hurricane’s force, with another 29 indirectly linked to Andrew. Hundreds of people were injured, more than 125,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by the storm’s fury, 160,000 people were left homeless and 86,000 residents lost their jobs.” (Biscayne National Park Plaque Commemorates 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew) as demonstrated by the damage sustained by the house in the picture below, the 1991 storm more devastated almost three thousand square kilometers of southern Florida.
Define Hurricane is basically a very big tropical cyclone like weather system that develops in the tropics. There are certain storm classifications that distinguish types of storms: Tropical Depression, Tropical Storm and a Hurricane. One major distinction between these different types of storms is the speed of the associated winds. A Tropical Depression usually has all of the makings of a storm such as persistent clouds and thunderstorms but the maximum sustained winds are at most thirty eight miles per hour. A Tropical Storm also has strong thunderstorms and winds blowing between thirty nine to seventy three miles per hour. In the case of a Hurricane, the tropical weather system’s winds range from seventy four miles per hour and up.
Hurricanes do not just occur in our hemisphere. In the western Pacific, hurricanes simply have a different name. There, they are called typhoons and around the Indian Ocean they are called cyclones. Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are one of nature’s most powerful forces and the potential for loss of life and destruction of property has historically been tremendous. Individuals living in hurricane-prone areas must be vigilant of both hurricanes and tropical storms.
However, those living inland have also experienced extremely destructive winds, tornadoes and floods from both tropical storms and hurricanes. Hurricane haves been effecting man for all of eternity and were named by the indigenous religions of old civilizations. “The Mayan storm god was named Hunraken. A god considered evil by the Taino people of the Caribbean was called Huracan.” (Hurricanes: Unleashing Natures Fury)
The nations in the typical path of these storms start the watch of better known hurricane season around late May and early June. In the United States, the peak hurricane season ranges from early August to late October and there have been some more mild hurricanes as late as November. Throughout the world, typhoons are less predictable and occur year-round.
Hurricane Andrew and other storm patterns are products of a tropical ocean and a warm, moist atmosphere. Andrew was powered by the heat coming from the sea and was directed by high-level easterly winds as it made its way north from the tropics. The Hurricane Andrew was extremely strong and actually fed off of its own steering winds in addition to the high-level easterly winds.
Hurricanes: Unleashing Natures Fury)
Hurricanes are measured by a system called the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. The scale classifies a hurricane within a range from 1 to 5 based on the hurricane’s intensity. This scale has also been utilized by the United States government and insurance companies as potential measure of property damage. Based on a hurricane’s potential, all hurricanes and typhoons that reach the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale Category 3 or higher are considered as a major hurricane that has the potential for large numbers of lives being lost and potentially devastating property losses can be expected. Of course, this is not to underestimate the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale Category 1 or 2 storms because those level storms are also very dangerous. Because it has occurred in the North Pacific, a classification of a “Super Typhoon” has been added for the tropical cyclones that exceed wind speeds of one hundred fifty miles per hour.
As can be seen in the chart below, Hurricane Andrew was classified as a Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale Category 4 with the damage potential of Extreme which entails trees being blown down, potentially complete destruction to mobile homes, extensive damage to roofing materials, windows and doors and a complete failure of roofs on many small residences.
Hurricanes: Unleashing Natures Fury)
Category Four Hurricane like Hurricane Andrew has wind gusts between one hundred thirty one and one hundred fifty five miles per hour. The storm surge is usually thirteen to eighteen feet higher than normal and extensive curtainwall failures occur as well as complete roof structure failures on the typical small residence. As shown earlier, shrubs, trees, and signs can become flying projectiles that are potentially lethal.
Other not so well-known facts concerning hurricanes are the turbidity factors of the oceans immediately after the passing of a hurricane like Andrew. The oceans were extremely rough throughout south Florida with a large turbidity in the vicinities of Florida Bay, Florida and Biscayne Bay. “During summer months bottom reflection can compose a significant part of the signal in Florida Bay but the difference image reveals that Andrew was responsible for large changes. Within the southwest Florida coastal area, the highest turbidity values are to the left of the hurricane track but the largest regional affected extent lies to the right as may be expected with the stronger hurricane winds in this region. Smaller turbidity changes are also apparent off Cape St. George in the Florida panhandle region.” (Hurricane Andrew CSC)
Hurricane Andrew was a small but extremely ferocious hurricane that inflicted an unprecedented economic devastation all along its path through the northwestern Bahamas, the southern Florida peninsula and south-central Louisiana. The record amount of damage has been updated to well over forty billion dollars making Hurricane Andrew one of the most expensive natural disasters in the United States’ history.
Florida has been considered one of our nation’s fastest growing states. Florida is home to thousands of retired individuals especially in the regions of St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach all the way to Miami. The area has been nicknamed the “Gold Coast.” Although the coastline is growing rapidly, the main growth migration has been in the central interior along Interstate 4. Because of the steady population growth in the area, a storm like Hurricane Andrew would have more of an impact than if it had hit a less densely populated area.
Hurricane Andrew has been labeled as the third most powerful storm when it struck land in the last century for the United States. When the storm reached Dade County, Florida, it was an all powerful Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale Category 4 hurricane. Weather historians have documented that the central pressure of Andrew was 922 mb which is the third lowest of a hurricane to hit landfall in this century. The storm covered broad areas of southeastern Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. In those areas the total rainfall associated to the big storm was in excess of seven inches. In neighboring states, rainfall amounts were recorded as high as five inches.
The damages suffered in the Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi areas at the time were thought to be approximately twenty five billion dollars but those figures were raised to well over forty billion dollars later. These damage costs from Hurricane Andrew were at first only estimates. When it was all said and done, Hurricane Andrew was the expensive natural disaster in the nation’s history. Early on the storm was reported to have destroyed more than twenty five thousand homes and damaged over one hundred thousand others.
After the smoke cleared however, the devastation which Andrew caused was much more extensive. The storm left nearly two hundred and fifty thousand people in South Florida homeless and approximately six hundred thousand homes and businesses were destroyed or severely impaired by the devastating winds and huge waves. The storm was also responsible for twenty six deaths directly but estimates say that sixty five deaths were indirectly associated to the path of Andrew. South Florida’s communications and transportation infrastructure was in shambles and the state lost power, utilities, water, and other essentials such as sewage treatment plants. There were a more than one million individuals without power and that situation in some cases lasted for over six months.
Andrew also circled and made a second United States presence but the area was not as a low population section of the southern Louisiana coast line. Although it had lost some pop, Andrew was still a Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale Category 3 hurricane on the second go around. but, the first round was enough to know that Andrew was bad. From a business perspective, Hurricane Andrew crippled the offshore oil facilities on its second approach throughout the gulf coast and in Louisiana where the storm added another billion dollars in damage.
These financial losses did not even take into consideration the badly deteriorated Everglades ecosystem which would be restored several years later after a second hurricane, Opal, crippled the ecosystem even more.
The state of Florida had one of its worst hurricane seasons on record in 2004 yet the state was much better prepared. The state seemed to have learned some valuable lessons from 1992. “As hundreds of millions of dollars in hurricane relief become available to Florida, Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings declared Wednesday that she wants the state to assist in the rebuilding of thousands of affordable homes within the next 18 to 24 months. Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Jennings on Wednesday to lead a group that will evaluate needs and make recommendations on how to restore Florida’s affordable housing market.” (Therloff)
One of the group’s primary objectives was to rebuild some of the homes that were technically damaged by Hurricane Andrew in the early 1990’s. “Bush and Jennings acknowledged that many of the rebuilt structures will be mobile homes, which are most vulnerable to Florida’s hurricanes. Bush said he hoped that more mobile home communities, however, will have hurricane-safe centers so that residents will have a nearby refuge to wait out storms.” (Therloff)
In conclusion, when the Florida’s Biscayne National Park dedicated a plaque to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, they were remembering the devastating forces of nature. Hurricanes are one of nature’s most powerful forces yet ironically they are one of the most beautiful sights to behold via satellite imagery. Hurricane Andrew was no exception. Hurricane Andrew was by far one of the costliest disasters in our nation’s history as it was said to have caused damages of more than forty billion dollars. This report presented a summary of hurricanes in general and the destructive path of Hurricane Andrew. The massive amounts of damage in Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana still are a measuring standard by which we judge natural disasters.
National Weather Service)
Biscayne National Park Plaque Commemorates 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew. Ed. NOAA. NOAA Hurricane Service. Retrieved on 13 Nov. 2004, from http://www.srh.weather.gov/mfl/newpage/biscayne_andrew_plaque.html.
Hurricane Andrew. 8/23/1992. National Weather Service. Retrieved on 13 Nov. 2004, from http://www.srh.weather.gov/srh/jetstream/tropics/andrew.htm.
Hurricane Andrew CSC. August 16-28, 1992. csc.noaa.gov. Retrieved on 13 Nov. 2004, from http://www.csc.noaa.gov/crs/cohab/hurricane/andrew/andrew.htm.
Hurricanes: Unleashing Natures Fury. Ed. NOAA. National Weather Service. 13 Nov. 2004 http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/brochures/hurr.pdf.
Therloff, Garrett. “State Aims to Build Low-Cost Homes.” The Tampa Tribune (Metro) [Tampa] 11 Nov. 2004.
Unknown. “Hurricane Andrew Damage — 1991.” Earth Explorer (1995).
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