Hurricanes are something I never experienced living on the West Coast. We have many friends and family living in Texas who were directly impacted by Hurricane Harvey’s devastating deluge, and while we have been in communication with and in prayer for them, for some reason, we have been more watchful of Hurricane Irma and its trek toward Florida.
I’m not quite sure why that is. Perhaps it is because we were in Florida just less than two months ago. Or that we have several friends who are or were set to leave for Florida and parts of the South on their vacations this next week. Or maybe it is because I remember Hurricane Andrew 25 years ago and how it impacted my family.
It was not a direct impact, not for me. We were living in Southern California 2700 miles away from the devastation. I never saw firsthand how bad things were in Andrew’s aftermath. But my father did. He, an Army Reserve officer, was put back on active duty and deployed to Miami to work in FEMA’s hurricane center based out of Miami International Airport. His primary role was to provide information to families displaced by the storm as to how to obtain help and ensure that their basic needs were met.
He received his orders the last week of August, just days after Hurricane Andrew made its devastating sweep across South Florida. He left shortly afterward, on my first day of fifth grade.
My dad witnessed the magnitude of the destruction on the road as he drove to visit his troops working in Homestead. The city of Homestead, which took a direct hit, was leveled. He was astounded at the destructive force and could only think, “Wow. There’s actually something that has this much power.” Entire neighborhoods were decimated. He saw airplanes tipped over, buildings reduced to rubble, objects that he described looked like sticks sticking up from the ground. Those were two by fours that once held up homes. Though most had taken precautions securing and boarding up their homes with only a day’s notice, it was no match for Andrew’s sustained 165 mph winds.
While in Florida he had the opportunity to visit with folks who were members of his church back when he lived in Chicago. They were living in Homestead. They rode out the hurricane in their bathroom. Their home was completely demolished. But they, by God’s grace, survived.
So it is 25 years later, cities have been rebuilt, but the effects of Hurricane Andrew, one of the most intense storms to hit the U.S. are still remembered. Comparisons are being made between Andrew and Hurricane Irma as it currently barrels toward Florida’s southern coasts. Irma is larger, and while it has weakened to a Category 4, it is still a monstrous storm, and its current projection is that it will go through the entire state of Florida. I hope it will change course, weaken, do something to cause minimal damage- as unlikely as that may be. To those affected by these recent storms, be safe. Our thoughts are with you. And to those who are part of the relief efforts, thank you.
Photos by Rodney Anderson, U.S. Army (retired).