Residents of South Florida won’t ever forget the devastation delivered on them 25 years ago by Hurricane Andrew. Relatively small as hurricanes go, Andrew nevertheless wrought unprecedented economic devastation through the Bahamas, south Florida and south-central Louisiana. Damage in the United States was estimated to be near $25 billion, making Andrew the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history at that time.
Andrew slammed south Dade County particularly hard with violent winds and storm surges. The storm caused 15 deaths directly, and an additional 25 died from its effects. Andrew rendered a quarter million people homeless. Eye-popping photographs of the aftermath stunned the nation. Lives changed forever. Recovery took years.
Who among us can ever forget the horror of Hurricane Katrina? Ten years ago, Katrina killed nearly 2,000 people and affected 90,000 square miles of the country. Hundreds of thousands of evacuees scattered.
The Coast Guard rescued 34,000 people in New Orleans alone, and as recovery from Harvey continues in and around Houston, many residents commandeered boats and rescued their neighbors. Yet the federal government seemed unprepared for the disaster. Katrina had left in her wake a total disaster zone, leaving desperate people. Many had nowhere to go. After officials locked an overcrowded Superdome, tens of thousands of people desperate for food, water and shelter broke into the Morial Convention Center complex but found nothing there but chaos. Leaving the city became virtually impossible. Some people tried to walk over the Crescent City Connector bridge to the suburb of Gretna, but police officers with shotguns forced them to turn back.
Today, South Florida struggles to prepare for Irma. Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned the state’s residents that Irma is bigger, faster and stronger than Andrew. Indeed, Irma is huge, and its winds are ferocious. At this point, forecasters expect the storm to move up the southeast coast from Florida through Georgia and the Carolinas.
Prepare yourself in every way you can for the impact of this storm on you and your home, and do all you can to help others.