Revisiting 1992 Hurricane Andrew's Impact

August 24, 2013; 8:06 PM ET
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This image shows Hurricane Andrew on Aug. 25, 1992, more than a day after it wreaked havoc in South Florida. Image courtesy of NASA.

Hurricane Andrew made landfall in South Florida in the early morning hours of Aug. 24, 1992, bringing with it billions of dollars of damages and ushering in a new era of building codes.

Of particular importance to the redesigning of the code was a greater focus on wind resistance. Hurricane Andrew's winds maxed out at 175 mph and made landfall near Homestead, Fla., with winds of more than 150 mph.

More stringent building regulation was introduced in 1994, and in 2002 -- a decade after Andrew's destruction -- an updated statewide building code was enacted.

Evan Myers, meteorologist and chief operating officer for AccuWeather.com, reflected on the destruction of Andrew saying, "It was like a giant tornado went through."

Myers noted that it seemed as if less damage was sustained south of Miami, because many homes there were older and "more cinderblock with flat roofs," which allowed them to better withstand the tremendous winds.

North of Miami, Myers said, the homes were newer and "couldn't withstand anything at all."

Charles Danger, director and building official for the Miami-Dade County Building and Neighborhood Compliance Department said that before Andrew there was no set code for the entire state of Florida.

"We now have one code for the entire state since 2001, the Florida Building Code that we have now is based on the International Building Code with local amendments that are for Florida only," he said.


Aerial view of the damage done by Hurricane Andrew is shown in this photo dated Aug. 24, 1992, in South Dade County, Fla. (AP Photo/Ray Fairall)

"We strengthened the section for the structural part of the code so that we met the wind standards for the American Society of Civil Engineers, which we had not done before," Danger said.

While Danger said that structures and roofs are stronger, the everyday person won't notice most of the changes because they are internal to buildings. However, the lay person will see a significant difference in windows and doors.

Danger said, "For instance, if you install impact windows, you will see the difference because not only do they protect you against debris flying during hurricanes and be resistant of the wind, but it does give you more security to the house... and it also gives you less sound from the street."

According to Danger, it took a few years to get the ball rolling, but now industry professionals are accustomed to building this way.

Moreover, while the initial cost of building may have been impacted slightly -- though Danger says he does not think the impact has been enormous -- economically, people fare better.

"You still have a home, and you still have a place to sleep, and you don't have to go to a shelter and disturb your life and the life of your family, and you're protected against any injury that you may have in case you lose your house."

Forensic Meteorologist Dr. Joe Sobel has a personal connection to Hurricane Andrew. A cousin of Sobel's was living in South Kendall, Fla., about 20 miles north of Homestead, Fla., where the worst of the storm hit.

Sobel said he called his cousin, whom he had not spoken to in years to warn her, "This is the real thing."

"I told her, 'you need to do everything you can now, to protect life and property,'" he said.

Sobel said his cousin boarded up her home and purchased hurricane shutters and rode through the storm, coming out relatively unscathed. But he said she describes the night as "the scariest of her life."

Sobel said Andrew was an anomaly in an otherwise quiet hurricane year.

He said, "If you were in South Florida, it didn't seem like a quiet hurricane year."

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