It was just a few weeks ago that south Florida marked the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, as the Miami area looked back at an event that brought dramatic change to the lives of many residents – now with Hurricane Irma approaching Florida, those who lived through Andrew are hoping they aren’t about to see a repeat of that destructive storm.
“Every August I think about those harrowing days in 1992,” said Robert Lenz, who now lives in Atlanta, but found himself scrambling in recent days to make sure his mother found a better place to stay, north of Miami.
“The morning after the hurricane hit South Florida, I could literally say it looked like a war zone,” said Andy Triay, who lived in the Coconut Grove section of Miami.
“I can still see the scars of Hurricane Andrew 25 years later – shorter trees; houses with strange additions that are strong rooms,” he added.
In Kendall, Lenz and his wife, Laura, rode out Hurricane Andrew with some elderly neighbors – whose house seemed to be in better shape – until a flying 2 x 8 crashed through a back bedroom window where they had been sleeping just a few minutes earlier.
After that, they sheltered in a walk in closet for the next four hours of the hurricane’s assault.
“Periodically we peeked outside to notice the roof moving, and wondering if it would give way,” Lenz said.
The further south you went from Miami on that night of August 24, 1992, the worse things got with Andrew.
Reporter’s note – I went to college with Lenz and Triay – the morning after Andrew came ashore, I did about the only thing you could do back in 1992 to check on your friends after a hurricane – I picked up the telephone and called.
Triay’s wife, Cathy, answered the phone and gave me her harrowing first person account. That was the last time their phone worked until almost the end of the year.
Thinking about Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Irma in recent days, I put out a post on Facebook, asking people to detail what they went through for Andrew. The responses were telling.
“We would have been dead if we stayed,” said Daisy Davidow, who lived halfway to Homestead, Florida, which took the brunt of the hurricane.
“The house flooded and there were concrete roof tiles EMBEDDED in the walls of my home,” Davidow told me this week. “Like bullets being shot through the house.”
“My baby was 10 days old. It was awful,” said Mercedes Cano Paz. “My daughter is now 25 and a ER nurse who will be working during the hurricane.”
After the storm ended, things did not get back to normal right away.
“We had no electricity for a few weeks; no phone lines until Christmas and no cable TV until the following year,” Triay said.
But neighbors helped neighbors, clearing debris, looking after each other, and more.
“We are forever thankful to our neighbors who we got to know very well,” said Lenz. “It bonded us for life and we still keep in touch with them.”
For some leaving their destroyed home was the only option after Andrew.
“I sold the home for the land and that was the smartest decision we have ever made,” said Davidow.
Her advice now?
“Evacuate, because even inland is dangerous.”
“Get the heck out of the way!” said C.J. Wright. “I was there and the aftermath was almost worse than the storm itself.”