We apologize for having waited so long to thank all of you for your phone calls and other expressions of concern after Hurricane Andrew blew into our lives on August 24, 1992. Although it took Andrew only three hours to virtually demolish South Dade County, recovery will take years,
We knew Andrew was approaching South Florida, but the eye was expected to travel across Miami or farther north. That would have put us on the south side of the storm, the weak side, Because our house is sitting high on a pad of earth designed to prevent hurricane flooding, we were not afraid of flooding. So even though we were in an evacuation zone, we decided not to evacuate. I remembered the hurricanes of the 1940’s when I was growing up in Ft, Lauderdale, and wanted to be here to prevent water damage by immediately mopping up any water which blew in under the doors or around the windows,
Our son, Curtis, and his wife, Julie, who live four miles south of us, decided to ride out the storm here along with their cat, Mozart. The windows on both of our houses were covered with storm shutters and we assumed that the houses would suffer only minor damage. Sunday evening the weather was pleasant and it was difficult to imagine that a powerful hurricane would soon be hitting us. We went to bed Sunday night and slept until 3:38 AM, when the noise of the storm woke us up. The electricity was off, so we got out the flashlight and sat around the kitchen table listening to the portable radio. The house began to shake violently, and then as a strong gust of wind hit the house we heard a terrible crashing noise. Insulation and sawdust were coming down from the ceiling. We fled to the middle bedroom, where we spent the next hour and a half. Julie and I sat in the closet, Curtis sat next to us with his back to a heavy, oak dresser, and Karsten lay on the bottom bunk. The whole house was shaking violently, and with every gust of wind came a frightful crash. Although no water was coming through the ceiling, I became aware that I was sitting in water. I thought it was ironic that we stayed in the house to protect the house from water damage, and at that point my only concern was to protect my Life.
At about 5 AM we heard rain hitting the shutters in the room we were in. That meant that the wind, which had at first come from the north, then from the east, was now coming from the south. We needed to leave the south side of the house and go to the laundry room, which is at the north end of the house. It was dark, so we didn’t see the destruction as we ran through the hallway, living room and kitchen. Water was dripping down from the ceiling in the laundry room, but the back side of the storm lived up to its billing as the weak side of the storm, so our anxiety level went down precipitously. By daylight we decided to venture out.
The enclosed picture shows what we saw when we looked at our house. Actually the picture shows storm shutters on the front windows, but three of those windows were blown in. Before the picture was taken we had removed storm shutters from windows on the south or west side of the house and put them on the broken windows to keep the rain out. As bad as it had seemed as we cowered in our closet during the storm, we were unprepared for the desolation we found. The hurricane had not hit the city of Miami. The eye had passed just south of us, and the north eye wall was the WORST part of the storm. The highest storm surge, 16.9ft above sea level, occurred one mile due east of our house.
With holes in your roof, shattered windows, broken glass and soaked debris all over the house, no water, no power and no phone, what do you do first? We scavenged plywood from the back yard, placed it over the holes in the living room roof, and completed our roofing job by placing old shower curtains over the plywood. Then we started cleaning up. We had a lot of drinking water I had stored in plastic jugs before the storm, we had a Coleman stove and we had enough canned food to last for several days. Buckets of water from the canal worked fine to fill the toilet tank. Our bedroom, the TV room and the bedroom in which we had spent the storm had escaped major damage and had intact roofs.
The second day after the storm Karsten and Curtis managed to drive around the debris to our business and found the windows blown in and the roof damaged, but no major damage to the manufacturing equipment. However, without electricity we would not be able to resume production. From the plant they proceeded to Curtis and Julie’s house and found only one broken window. But so many shingles and so much tarpaper had been blown away that their house had been soaked.
The second day after the storm our phone service was restored. (Our business is not so lucky. Kendall Plastics still doesn’t have a phone.) On the third day after the storm, Janet Hartman called from Philadelphia to say that her brother, David, had a generator we could borrow. The following day David arrived with a generator. What a luxury it was to be able to run the refrigerator, the TV, a lamp, and most importantly, the little pump that brings water down from the solar water heater. A hot shower is a marvelous thing. After about five days minimal water pressure was restored – but the boil water order continued for another two weeks. Our electric power was restored two weeks after the storm. After three weeks Kendall Plastics got power. After five weeks the roofers “dried in” our roof (it has tar paper but no shingles).
Curtis and Julie have emptied their house and stored their belongings in a warehouse owned by my brother, Tom. They need a new roof and all new interior walls before they can move back into their house. They are living in a motor home which Ron and Betty Broman, old friends from Plantation, have loaned us. The motor home is parked on our driveway. We are helping each other as we begin the rebuilding job.
Seven weeks have passed since the hurricane. What sticks in our minds about this strange recovery period? helicopters moving back and forth constantly; waiting in line at the post office for mail while national guardsmen with rifles made sure the line was orderly; unbelievable traffic jams; heroic volunteers directing traffic; the welcome presence of the 92nd airborne rangers who helped push trees back up in the daytime and enforced the curfew at night; the gigantic piles of debris and the contractors hired by the Army Corps of Engineers who hauled the debris away; waiting and waiting for the State Farm adjuster; the determination of plants to recover – every plant which hadn’t been blown over or away began sending out new leaves. A geiger tree which we had considered dead for a whole year suddenly sprouted,
There’s not a lot of glamour in this reconstruction process, but whenever we get down because everything seems to be going so slowly, we remember the joy with which we greeted our neighbors on the morning after the storm and gratefully shouted “WE’RE ALIVE!”