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HURRICANES, UNEXPECTED TWISTS AND AFTERMATHS

I keep watching updated news reporters with their interviews of what is going on in the Bahamas and Abacus. I have been torn up over the whole thing. Living in Florida I have been in many storms, nothing like this, but hurricanes, tropical storms and such so I know what it is like to see and hear the roaring fury of the wind and rain.

I was in South Florida when Hurricane Andrew went through Miami, and the devastation was shocking there, similar to what happened in the Bahamas but on a smaller scale, just a swath across the state, still horrible but it was a fast storm, it just roared across the entire state in a matter of hours, it was that fast. Thank God, otherwise it could have been so much worse. Most of that damage was from the wind, not the vast flooding of deep water that the Bahamians described on the you-tube footage I had seen and have heard about. Hurricanes spawn lots of tornadoes, and Andrew was all about those. Andrew happened in August, 1992, a long time ago now, but that was a bad storm and destroyed the Kendall/Homestead area of Florida and that is what I was witness to. It was about the same destruction as what we are seeing in the Bahamas. I remember seeing a huge iron beam once, like a building would have in it, impaled into the side of a building at the level of the 3rd or 4th story, way up high, like it was a tooth pick. It had to have been 30 or 40 feet long, maybe longer, 5 feet wide, weighed, I don't know, more than a ton, huge. It was made of iron. A huge iron beam that came from a building. Up three or four stories, sticking out of the side of a building. It had been propelled like a missile by a tornado! Unbelievable! I knew a couple who lived in a multilevel apartment building, I think three or four stories. They were on the second or third floor. They had twin babies. They rode the storm out in their bathroom tub with a mattress over their heads. When they came out of the bathroom the wall was gone from the room and they were looking outside. The building was totaled. They left with whatever they could pickup and never went back. They ended up moving to Arizona.

At least forty-four people died in Hurricane Andrew in Florida (the number is up for debate if you look it up). It threw Florida a wicked curve ball because the storm was very unpredictable and changed course at the last minute several times. At one point, it was predicted to go through the area I was in, which was Miami Lakes, the north part of Miami. I found out the hurricane was coming too late to evacuate. I had been working from home, not paying attention to the news reports and it took me by surprise. I'm not one to watch TV and I don't watch the weather or news, so I found out about the hurricane when I went to visit my friend who was in the hospital (the one referenced to below who lived in Kendall). I walked into her room and she asked me why was I there, that she was being evacuated because a Category 5 hurricane was coming. She said "You need to go home and get ready for the storm." My plan had always been to drive the 6 hour drive to my parent's home in Ocala, but by the time I found out about the hurricane it was too late to evacuate. I ended up going to the shelter in the local high school, which was just a horrible experience.

Anyway, my friend was evacuated out from the hospital on Miami Beach where she had been a patient to her home in Kendall because of the hurricane. Then at the last moment the storm took a sharp turn and roared through exactly where it had been predicted NOT to go, Kendall. My friend's house survived with some damage, but the houses on either side of hers lost their roofs and both had severe damage. A tornado had to have hit both of them but missed her house. About six weeks after the storm, I went to visit her. I was in tears by the time I finally found her house. I literally could not find the street she lived on because the entire landscape had changed. There weren't any street signs, walls that had been there were gone, houses were wrecked or gone. The trees didn't have leaves. It looked like a bomb had gone off. All my landmarks that I used for navigation were erased.

For almost two years huge dump trucks filled with rubble and debris ran in a constant loop back and forth to the landfills outside of the area to haul away and clear out all the trash and make room for clean up and rebuilding. There was constant construction for years. It was later uncovered that the damage was so bad because the builders in South Florida had been getting really lax and sloppy and not building to code and when Andrew hit it was a Category 5 and many of the new homes and apartment/condo buildings weren't strong enough to hold up against a hurricane of that magnitude, this was the reason so many of the newer homes and apartment/condo's were destroyed so thoroughly and/or flattened. There were also a lot of trailers and mobile homes that didn't stand a chance. So even though it was a fast storm and was only over the land for a few hours, 18 miles an hour (or says the internet) it flattened most of what it crossed. Didn't stand a chance.

I had friends who lived in apartments and condo's whose places were just bulldozed down, and rebuilt from the ground up. They lost everything. Everything. They lost their homes, belongings, jobs, everything. There were many people I know who just walked away from their houses and mortgages, didn't even try to rebuild, they didn't look back just kept going. I took this off the internet about Hurricane Andrew that hit Florida in 1992 - "Overall, Andrew caused about $25.3 billion in damage in Florida, making it the costliest hurricane to hit the state at the time. Some estimates in Florida put the damage as high as $32 billion It is estimated that throughout Florida, the storm damaged 101,241 homes and destroyed approximately 63,000 others – the vast majority in Dade County – with about 175,000 people rendered homeless." I had forgotten the magnitude of Andrew until I was looking up correct facts for this blog... I lived it, but with time memories do fade. How could I have forgotten the scope of this event? I guess I didn't, it's just that it took this tragedy to recall the memories.

This is what the Bahamians are facing. I lived a tiny snapshot, just a sliver of what they are living right now. My heart goes out to them. I have tears right now just thinking about what they are dealing with. It's hot there, humid (or anyway I think it is, it's in the tropics, it's hot/humid here). They are on an island, maybe not so humid, but probably. No fresh water, no showers, toilets, food, shelter. Unfortunately, there are bodies there of people, animals. Creatures that didn't make it. Conditions are unbearable and not getting any better. It is just ghastly. There is death, pain, misery.

I was at Temple last night and talking with a friend about them, he just said they were martyrs, and if it wasn't them it would have been Florida (us). I thought to myself, how can you say that? my God, how can you say that? Give them up, so we aren't harmed? Put their island there? I know it's what happened, but gosh, don't say that....... My heart bleeds....

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So reading this over I made a mistake in the beginning saying Andrew was a smaller version of the Bahamian Hurricane, not true at all. My memory slice of Andrew seemed smaller to me at the time I first started writing this blog, but as I reviewed the news articles for facts and I started seeing the pictures again and going over the stories in my mind, reliving it. I remember now and understand better why this is hitting me so hard. Because it was huge, It was so much bigger than I put on here, so much bigger. Time has smoothed away enormity of that storm for me, and I didn't live so much of the hardship. I was there, I saw the destruction, but I was spared the misery. I ended up buying a condo a year or so after Andrew in South Miami and got a job down there with my company. They had a hard time finding people willing to work there, but I went. I got a good deal on my condo and it was repaired from the storm, so why not? But many left who had been through it. And I had forgotten until I started writing this and looking up the history again exactly how catastrophic it actually was. So, yeah, it WAS a lot more damage than the Bahamians got, but it was the same type of damage. The same thing. Total destruction. But the areas I saw and lived in didn't have the water damage the Bahamians go. No, no Wind, tornadoes yes. So, there. I stand corrected by myself. Nuff said
 

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