My case study is on Hurricane Andrew. I chose this event because I have heard all about it growing up with two meteorologist parents. At the time of its occurrence in August 1992, it was the most destructive hurricane in United States history. It caused major damage in the Bahamas and Louisiana, but the greatest impact was in South Florida, where it made landfall at Category 5 hurricane intensity on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale, with wind speeds up to 165 mph (270 km/h). Passing directly through the town of Homestead, Florida, a city south of Miami, Andrew obliterated entire blocks of homes, in many cases leaving only the concrete foundations. Over 25,000 houses were destroyed in Miami-Dade County alone, and nearly 100,000 more were severely damaged. 65 people were killed and the damage total across the affected regions exceeded $26 billion (1992 USD).
Though Andrew was a small tropical cyclone for most of its lifespan, it caused extreme damage, especially in the Bahamas, Florida, and Louisiana. The vast majority of the damage was as a result of extremely high winds, although a few tornadoes spawned by Andrew caused considerable damage in Louisiana. Throughout the areas affected, almost 177,000 people were left homeless. Outside of the Bahamas, Florida, and Louisiana, effects were widespread, although damage was minimal. As a result of damage in Florida and Louisiana, Andrew was listed as the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, but is now fourth following Hurricanes Katrina (2005), Sandy (2012), and Ike (2008).
The death toll could have been significantly higher if it wasn’t for such good forecasting and careful monitoring of the storm. Our forecasting abilities have only gotten better since this disaster. After the storm passed, President Bush assessed damage in the Miami-Dade area with then-Governor of Florida Lawton Chiles. Shortly thereafter, Bush declared the region a disaster area, which provided public assistance to victims of the storm. In September 1992, President Bush initially proposed a $7.1 billion aid package to provide disaster benefits, small-business loans, agricultural recovery, food stamps, and public housing for victims of Hurricane Andrew. The cost was later increased to $11.1 billion. The bill, which was the most costly disaster aid package at the time, was passed by Congress as House Resolution 5620 on September 18, and signed into law by President Bush on September 23.
It took nearly 10 years for the region to fully recover from Hurricane Andrew, but as a Homestead resident said in 2012, “We are now much better prepared for hurricanes. After Andrew, the construction standards changed tremendously. We now have one of the most stringent building codes in the country.”