Hurricane Andrew

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This article is about the 1992 hurricane; there was also a Tropical Storm Andrew during the 1986 Atlantic hurricane season.

Hurricane Andrew
Hurricane Andrew approaching the Bahamas and Florida

Hurricane Andrew approaching the Bahamas and Florida
Duration Aug. 16 - 28, 1992
Highest winds 165 mph (265 km/h) sustained
Damages $45 billion (2005 U.S. dollars)
Fatalities 26 direct, 39 indirect
Areas affected Bahamas; South Florida, Louisiana, and other areas of the Southern United States
Part of the 1992 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Andrew was one of the most destructive and expensive hurricanes to hit the United States. It raged from August 16 to August 28, 1992. This tropical cyclone affected the northwestern Bahamas, then southern Florida in the greater Miami area, doing much damage, crossing the Florida peninsula and the Gulf of Mexico before again making landfall in south-central Louisiana where it caused further damage. Andrew is currently the second most expensive hurricane ever (behind Katrina of 2005).


Formation and Track

Hurricane Andrew at landfall in Florida.
Hurricane Andrew at landfall in Florida.
Storm path
Storm path

Andrew started modestly as a tropical wave that emerged from the west coast of Africa on August 14. The wave spawned a tropical depression on August 16 which became Tropical Storm Andrew the next day. Further development was slow, as the west-northwestward moving Andrew encountered an unfavorable upper-level trough. Indeed, the storm almost dissipated on August 20 due to vertical wind shear. By August 21, Andrew was midway between Bermuda and Puerto Rico and turning westward into a more favorable environment. Rapid strengthening occurred, with Andrew reaching hurricane strength (sustained winds greater than 74 mph) on the 22nd and Category Four status on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale on the 23rd. After briefly weakening over the Bahamas, Andrew reached Category Five status as it made landfall over south Florida on August 24. The hurricane continued westward into the Gulf of Mexico where it gradually turned northward. This motion brought Andrew to the central Louisiana coast on August 26 as a Category Three hurricane. Andrew then turned northeastward, eventually merging with a frontal system over the Mid-Atlantic states on August 28.


Infrared image of Andrew landfall
Infrared image of Andrew landfall

Reports from private barometers helped establish that Andrew's central pressure at landfall in Homestead, Florida, was 27.23 inches (922 hPa), which at the time made it the third most intense hurricane on record to hit the United States (it has since fallen to fourth, as of 2005).

Andrew's peak winds in south Florida were not directly measured due to destruction of the measuring instruments. An automated station at Fowey Rocks reported 142 mph (228 km/h) sustained winds with gusts to 200 mph (321 km/h) (measured 144 ft (43.9 m) above the ground), and higher values may have occurred after the station was damaged and stopped reporting. An amateur meteorologist living about a mile from the shoreline recorded a gust at an amazing 212 mph (341 km/h) before his instruments were destroyed. [1] The National Hurricane Center had a peak gust of 164 mph (272 km/h) (measured 130 ft (39.6 m) above the ground) just before the hurricane crippled its measuring devices, while a 177 mph (285 km/h) gust was measured at a private home. In 2002, as part of an ongoing review of historical hurricane records, National Hurricane Center experts concluded that Andrew briefly had sustained winds of 165 mph (265 km/h) at landfall (Andrew had originally been classified as a Category Four storm at landfall). Additionally, Berwick, Louisiana, reported 96 mph (154 km/h) sustained winds with gusts to 120 mph (193 km/h).


The aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in Florida.
The aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in Florida.

Andrew was only the third Category five hurricane to hit the United States, the previous ones being Hurricane Camille, which hit Mississippi and Louisiana in August 1969, and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, which struck the Florida Keys in September 1935.

As with most high-intensity storms (categories four and five), the worst damage from Andrew is thought to have occurred not from straight-line winds but from vortexes, or embedded tornadoes. This was the conclusion of T. Theodore Fujita, a University of Chicago meteorologist who devised the Fujita scale for measuring the strength of tornadoes, after he surveyed Andrew's destruction in the Homestead area. There were thousands of these vortexes in Andrew; many of them could be traced for several miles, as they usually destroyed every building in their paths.

Andrew produced a 17 ft (5.2 m) storm surge near the landfall point in Florida, while storm tides of at least eight ft (2.4 m) inundated portions of the Louisiana coast. Andrew also produced a killer tornado in southeastern Louisiana.

Most intense landfalling U.S. hurricanes

Intensity is measured solely by central pressure

Rank Hurricane Year Landfall pressure
1 Labor Day 1935 892 mbar (hPa)
2 Camille 1969 909 mbar (hPa)
3 Katrina 2005 918 mbar (hPa)
4 Andrew 1992 922 mbar (hPa)
5 Indianola 1886 925 mbar (hPa)
6 Florida Keys 1919 927 mbar (hPa)
7 Okeechobee 1928 929 mbar (hPa)
8 Donna 1960 930 mbar (hPa)
9 New Orleans 1915 931 mbar (hPa)
10 Carla 1961 931 mbar (hPa)
Source: U.S. National Hurricane Center

Andrew was responsible for 23 deaths in the United States and three more in the Bahamas. The hurricane caused $26.5 billion in damage in the United States, of which $1 billion occurred in Louisiana and the rest in south Florida. Unlike most hurricanes, the vast majority of the damage in Florida was due to the winds. Damage in the Bahamas was estimated at $250 million.

Andrew's catastrophic damage spawned many rumors, including claims that hundreds or even thousands of migrant farm workers in south Dade County (now Miami-Dade County) were killed and their deaths were not reported in official accounts. An investigation by the Miami Herald found no basis for such rumors. These rumors were probably based on the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane, when the deaths of migrant workers initially went uncounted, and were still debated at the time of Andrew.

The slow response of federal aid to storm victims in southern Florida led Dade County emergency management director Kate Hale to famously exclaim at a nationally televised news conference, "Where in the hell is the cavalry on this one? They keep saying we're going to get supplies. For God's sake, where are they?" Almost immediately, President George H. W. Bush promised, "Help is on the way," and mobile kitchens and tents began pouring in. [2]

The Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station was hit directly by Andrew. Over $90 million of damage was done, largely to a water tank and to a smokestack of one of the fossil-fueled units on-site, but the containment buildings were undamaged. The nuclear plant was built to withstand winds of up to 235 miles per hour.

Massive damage caused by Andrew at Homestead Air Force Base, very near the point of landfall on the South Florida coast, led to the closing of the base as a full active-duty base. It was later partly rebuilt and operates today as a U.S. Air Reserve base. The aircraft and squadron were relocated to Aviano AFB in Italy.

The name Andrew was retired in the spring of 1993 and was replaced with Alex in the 1998 season.

Costliest Atlantic hurricanes, 1851-2004
Cost refers to total estimated property damage.
Rank Hurricane Year Cost (2004 USD)
1 Andrew 1992 $43.672 billion
2 Fifi 1974 $20 billion (2005 USD)
3 Charley 2004 $15 billion
4 Ivan 2004 $14.2 billion
5 Hugo 1989 $12.25 billion
Source: NOAA


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