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Hurricane Andrew

A hurricane is defined as a circular weather system with wind speeds of 74 mph or higher, found primarily in the Atlantic Ocean. The typical hurricane season occurs between the months of May and November, with most hurricanes happening during the months of August and September. There are three different weather systems that gradually develop before becoming a hurricane. It normally begins off the coast of Africa as a tropical disturbance (see figure 1) before becoming a tropical depression (see figure 2) with wind speeds up to 39 mph.
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Figure 1 - Tropical Disturbance (Source #2)
Once wind speeds reach above 39 mph,
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Figure 2 - Tropical Depression (Source #2)
the system is upgraded to a tropical storm (see figure 3)
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Figure 3 - Tropical Storm (Source #2)
and given a name; these names are given in alphabetical order.













It is not until the winds have reached 74 mph is it called a hurricane (see figure 4) and there begins to be ranked by
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Figure 4 - Hurricane (Source #2)
categories, which depend on wind speeds that can reach over 155 mph. The categorical ranking of hurricanes is determined by the Saffir- Simpson Hurricane Intensity Scale, which includes wind speeds, storm surge and the amount of possible damage.
The Saffir-Simpson Scale was created in 1969 by engineer, Herbert Saffir, and the director of the National Hurricane Center, Dr. Bob Simpson. According the Saffir-Simpson, hurricanes are ranked on a scale of one to five, with five being the most severe in wind speeds and the damages it causes (see figure 5).
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Figure 5 - Saffir Simpson Scale (source # 14)
According to the text, Natural Hazards and Disasters, the term "hurricane" comes from the native Indian language of the Caribbean's, which means "big wind." Considering that the Caribbean coast is greatly affected by nearly every hurricane to hit that area, it seems only obvious that natives of the Caribbean would be the one to name this weather system.





Background:

Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was one of the most destructive and costly hurricanes to make landfall since the 1960's, until it
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Figure 6 - Andrew's Path (Source #8)
was surpassed by the tragedies left behind by Hurricane Katrina, sixteen years later. The 1992 hurricane season was relatively peaceful with only four hurricanes and Andrew being the only major hurricane that entire season. Like the birth of any hurricane, Andrew began as a tropical disturbance off the western coast of Africa on August 16th, 1992 and three days later it became Tropical Storm Andrew, the first tropical storm of the 1992 hurricane season. By August 22nd, Tropical Storm Andrew reached 1600 km off the coast of Florida and was upgraded to the first hurricane of the 1992 season. Over the course of four days, from August 23rd to August 27th, Hurricane Andrew made landfall on the Bahamas, Florida and Louisiana before dissipating back to a tropical depression by August 28th (see figure 6).



The Bahamas
As seen in figure 5, Andrew first crossed paths with the Bahamas on August 23rd, 1992 at approximately 5pm into the early hours of August 24th. During this short period, Andrew's wind speeds topped 150 mph, making it a category 4 with extreme damage, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale. In its wake, Andrew caused a quarter of billion dollars in damage and a reported four deaths both directly and indirectly. As it left the Bahamas moving towards Florida, Hurricane Andrew regained momentum and would be later upgraded to a category 5, catastrophic hurricane (see figure 5).



Florida
As seen in figure 7, Andrew made landfall on the southeastern portion of Florida, near Dade
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Figure 7 - Hurricane Andrew making landfall on Florida (Source #17)
County in the city of Homestead, at approximately 5am and remained on land for approximately four hours. According to different barometers throughout the South Florida, wind speeds registered between 145 - 180 mph with gusts as high as 212 mph. The storm surges topped 17 ft causing substantial damage along the coast and stripping areas of practically all vegetation and trees and in some locations nearly eroded entire areas. An example of such erosion was found on the island of Soldier Key, near Miami (see figures 8a & 8b).
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Figure 8a - Island of Solider Key, before (Source #7)

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Figure 8b - Island of Solider Key, after (Source #7)
By the time Hurricane Andrew made landfall in Louisiana on August 26th, it lost some momentum and was downgraded to category 3 hurricane; although a category 3 is still a major hurricane with winds as strong as 130 mph and possible extensive damage. It made landfall near Morgan City, Louisiana (some 70 miles west of New Orleans) and caused a F3 tornado that killed two people; a total of four people were killed in Louisiana due to the hurricane. Much of the damage was focused on the agricultural areas of Louisiana, including some 200 million to sugar cane production.


Evacuations :
According to different sources, the number of evacuees ranged from one to one and half million people from the Bahamas,
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Figure 9 - Evacuation Route sign (source #10)
parts of both Florida and Louisiana with some 600,000 to 700,000 from South Florida alone. Most contribute to the low number of deaths to both the work of law enforcement and those who heeded the evacuation warnings considering the people were said to have been given less 72 hour notice. Florida and Louisiana are only two of many coastal states with evacuation routes (see figure 9) clearly marked throughout the highways and roads and now with the internet are able to get GPS (Global Position System) directions right from their current location to a safer location.





The Aftermath:
Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida in a mere three to four hours time and caused billions of dollars in damages. According to reports, Hurricane Andrew made landfall first near Homestead Air Force Base (35 miles southwest of Miami) at approximately five o'clock in the morning with sustained winds of 132 mph and guests up to 164 mph and storm surges of fourteen to eighteen feet high. The eye (the center of the hurricane) was measured at approximately fifteen miles long; the winds were said to be the culprit for the majority of the damaged done. The toll
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Figure 10 - A community devastated by Andrew in Biscayne Bay, Florida (source #4)
on Miami-Dade County was the most severe of the three locations that Hurricane Andrew crossed paths with approximately 25,000 t0 30,000 homes damaged and more than 100,000 completely destroyed [this numbers included the mobile and single family homes]. Those who had survived and returned home found Southern Florida nearly obliterated and
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Figure 11 - Houses destroyed in Naranja, Florida (source #4)
summed it up best by comparing it to a " virtual war zone (see figures 10 & 11)". It is estimated that some 160,000 to 180,000 people were left homeless and some for up to six months before electricity and clean water could be restored to the entire region. Most of thes areas became know as the tent towns of Southern Florida (much like the refugee-like cities created after Hurricane Katrina).

Hurricane Andrew made landfall on Louisiana on august 26th, 1992 at approximately 4 o'clock in the morning (see figure 6). Unlike Hurricane Katrina that
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Figure 12a - Isles Dernieres in Louisiana before (source #7)
would hit sixteen years later, Hurricane Andrew made landfall southwest of New
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Figure 12b - Isles Dernieres after (source #7)
Orleans, near Morgan City. The majority of the hurricane's power had dwindled down to a category 3 hurricane with winds of 130 mph and storm surges no higher than eight feet. Much of the damage down to Louisiana was by way of its oyster reefs, approximately eighty percent were destroyed, along with its fishing industry, where millions of fish were killed at a loss of more than seven million dollars in possible revenue. Approximately 200 million dollars of damage was done to the sugar cane grown in Louisiana A little more than 6,000 people were displaced in Louisiana because of Hurricane Andrew. Damages to Louisiana were estimated at one billion dollars.

The death toll from Hurricane Andrew is still debated but the official number given is twenty-six directly and thirty-nine indirectly, with some arguing that this does not include the illegal immigrant population who were uncounted for and therefore the deaths could have in the hundreds but this is unsubstantiated and without formal reporting (but seemed important to include).


Did evacuation procedures help mitigate this disaster and what improvements have been made to these procedures since then?


The evacuation procedures for the coastal regions of the Atlantic Ocean are continuous evolving with the times and advances in technology. more than a million people were told to evacuate from Florida and Louisiana. At the time of Hurricane Andrew the best evacuation system in use was the watches and warning system by National Hurricane Center and the use of the evacuation routes that already been in place (see figure 9 for example). With, officially, less than one hundred people killed as a result of Hurricane Andrew, one could argue that the evacuation procedure did help to mitigate the this disaster by means of the human lives.

Some of the improvements made since Hurricane Andrew include insurance regulation, stricter construction codes and the establishment of a national hurricane week in 2002. After Hurricane Andrew, most of the cost was due to insurance claims which bankrupted eleven of the insurance companies in Florida and nearly a million policyholders were unable to benefit from their insurance. Many residences complained that their homes were not properly built to hurricane code standards which lead to the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund and eventually the Hurricane Loss Mitigation Program. Since Hurricane Andrew, homes in Florida are now required to be built to withstand windspeeds of up to 120 mph, which is only a category 3 hurricane and may not withstand another hurricane with strengths like Andrew but these standards are still better than before Hurricane Andrew. According to NOAA, their weather system was moderization in 2002 at a cost of 4.5 million dollars to include higher resolution radar and satellites. Before Hurricane Andrew, meteorologists would only able to guess where a hurricane would make landfall but GPS satellites and internet capabilities the process of determining a hurricanes path and size is more accurate. If anything, Hurricane Andrew taught people to value live and appreciate nature at its best.



SOURCES
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