Sunday, July 10, 2005

Andrews Memories 1992

Andrew August 22-24, 1992

It was Friday August the 21st 1992, and the hysteria about Hurricane Andrews was starting to grow. My parent’s house was in Coral Reef (just off US1 and 152nd street)

Kings Bayto the North of us, and the Fall’s a little further up, to the North. All of these shopping mall areas had been completely destroyed.

They were in Connecticut visiting family, oblivious to what was going on down south. WE had boarded up the house down south, and relocated North to Ft. Lauderdale to ride out the storm. The weekend was spent preparing other houses to the north, from damage. It ended up that we were boarding up the front windows on the house that we were in as the storm blew across the city. We were about .5 (less than half a mile from the Ft. Lauderdale beach).

We were watching t.v. as the storm started to blow up. It was bad where we were, the winds and the rain. It was nothing like what was going on down in South Dade. The power stayed on until around 4 am. Then we switched to radio to keep up on the storms progress.

Sunday came and went. Monday came and we tried to drive south to check on the status of the homes where we lived. We took I-95 south to Miami. Then we had to make a decision which way we would try to access the area.

One route took us along the water down through Coconut Grove and Old Cutler Road, down to Coral Reef Drive then up to the house. The other route was down Dixie Highway south through the main roads south.

We decided on route choice one. We turned off the highway and proceeded into the grove. There are marinas that sit on the water here. Many of the boats were in the STREETS. LARGE, HUGE YACHTS were standing in the middle of the road. The Centurion Ficus Trees that had been standing – shading the roadways were gone. These trees had trunks at least 50 feet around. They had been uprooted and moved from their mooring sites. The road was impassable.

We ventured out of the grove to the main roads and started driving south. As we passed Coral Gables, the street lights disappeared. Then the street signs were gone, then little by slowly, landmarks were gone. The trees that once stood were gone. Light poles that had once been standing, we lying across the roads.

Buildings that were minimally damaged became buildings that were totally destroyed. The farther south we got, the worse the state of destruction was. I watched a “Storm stories” episode on Hurricane Andrew last night, as Dennis churned across the Gulf.

It looked, from my perspective, and others have said, that someone dropped an atomic bomb on the city. We did not explore farther out from where we were headed that day, because we could not get there. The trip that usually took 45 minutes to complete on this day took FOUR HOURS.

All of the trees in the neighbourhood were gone. My family’s house faced East, and sat 8/10’s of a mile off the water which was due East of the house. There was a two story apartment building to the rear of the house behind us. Only one house on our street survived the blast.

There used to be trees in the yard. There was an 80 foot Silver Oak tree outside my bedroom window that I watched grow over 15 years. It had been pulled up out of the ground and dropped on top of the house next door. That house was destroyed.

The roof on out house was blown off. The screened in patio sat twisted inside the pool along with all the bushes from the back yard. The second floor of the apartment building behind us was rubble. When we got there, there were people combing through the rubble trying to salvage what they could.

Let me back up a bit. When we reached the street we lived on, the street was impassable.

We had to walk down to the house and get the chainsaws to try and cut the trees out of the way off the roads. It took us hours to do that, once we had cleared a path, we got to the house.

Many houses were damaged, well all of them except one.

The shopping mall, bank and stores on the corner up the street from the house, had been blown off their foundations. There were no landmarks, signs or electricity or water. You know where the wiring from the poles outside the house met the house, well, that had been yanked off the side of our house, when the oak tree was uprooted.

I took stock of the house, I checked with the neighbours. I found out what they needed and I secured what was left of the house. My neighbours started guarding the houses by night, sleeping in cars with guns to make sure looters would not rob them. I saw some pretty scary stuff. The natives were restless, and there were no law enforcement then to stop them from stealing and looting. There were lines of thousands of people trying to get ice and water. People were beating each other up and shooting each other for staple items. It was insanity. I’ve never seen people act the way they did after hurricane Andrew.

We spent the daylight doing what we could. A dusk to dawn curfew was in effect for the area, and then, they asked people to show ID to make sure no strangers got into the area, for safety reasons. I had to carry a special I.D. to get past the Armed Forces whom got there days after to keep things safe.

At dusk we drove north to Ft. Lauderdale. And after a rest, I called my parents and told my father that there was nothing to come home to, that the house had been destroyed. I gave him a list of things he MUST have in his possession before he left New Britian, because there were no banks, no stores, no electricity and no food.

I gave him his orders and told him that if he had seen war, then this was going to be a little more difficult. Four days later they flew home. I remember that day, because we left Ft. Lauderdale before day break to make it south before their flight touched down. There was no need to meet them at the airport. It would prove a challenge to see how long it would take them to get home just from the airport, which was about 30 minutes on a good day. We waited at the house for them. There was only one way in, so people were watching the pathway through the fallen trees.

Finally they got to the top of the street. And I saw the car stop. They got out and walked down the street, about 500 yards. The 2reened in patio sat twisted inside the pool along with all the buseh from the back yard.he city. s. slowly, landmarks wereThey were walking together and as they reached the front yard, my mother collapsed on the front lawn. My father took one look at the destruction around him and he sobbed where he stood.

Everything that they had worked for, for almost 30 years was gone. I walked up the street and drove the car through the trees and stared unpacking the generator and stuffs they had shipped with them. The total destruction of home was a truly awful. One room in the house still had a partial roof, (the family room). This is the room they lived in until the state brought down trailers for the residents.

There was no power for, oh, let me see, a few weeks. It is one thing to have quiet during a regular night. But take away the power lines, the traffic, and the trees and birds, and when darkness comes, it is truly dark, and eerily dead “Quiet!”

I spent 13 weeks trucking goods from North to South every day, ice, water, diapers, food, bread and gas and oil. We needed special I.D’s to get into the area outside of curfew times.

Finally we made it farther South and West. If I though what I had seen was bad, I was wrong. Homestead and Florida City had been annihilated. I still wonder what happened to the migrant workers out in the fields, because hundreds of people disappeared without a trace. We never heard from the government and it was never discussed. We do know that there were migrant communities out in the bush of south Dade. I fear that they met death and are buried in the depths of the everglades.

It took almost a year to rebuild my parent’s neighbourhood, and it took almost a decade to rebuild South Dade and Florida City.

Hurricanes are NOT little storms and should never be taken lightly.

These are just a few memories.


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