Hurricane Andrew—10 years later

The third-strongest hurricane in U.S. history left its mark on building codes and the roofing industry

On Monday morning, Aug. 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew struck south Florida. With peak wind gust speeds up to about 175 mph (78 m/s), it was the third-strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland in recorded history. The storm's center made landfall near Homestead, a community in Dade County about 25 miles (40 km) south of Miami. Fortunately, though it was strong, the storm's diameter was relatively small. Hence, Miami's downtown did not experience exceptionally high winds, and damage within the downtown area and areas to the north was minimal.

The storm had a forward (translational) speed of 18 mph to 20 mph (8 m/s to 9 m/s), which is relatively fast for a hurricane. It crossed the Florida peninsula in about four hours and still was a major hurricane when it entered the Gulf of Mexico. On the morning of Aug. 28, 1992, the hurricane made landfall in a relatively unpopulated area about 40 miles (60 km) from Lafayette, La., which is about 100 miles (160 km) from New Orleans, thus sparing New Orleans from the threat of catastrophic flooding.

Because of the hurricane's small diameter and fast translational speed, flooding was minor. With limited flooding, advanced warning of the approaching storm and a lot of luck, the death toll was surprisingly low for a storm that delivered extremely high wind speeds; there were 15 deaths in Florida, eight in Louisiana and three in the Bahamas. Although Hurricane Andrew spared lives, it did not spare property; it was the costliest hurricane and most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. Property damage was estimated to be $40 billion (in 2000 dollars). The number of homes destroyed totaled 25,524, and 101,241 homes were damaged. As a result of Hurricane Andrew, several insurance companies were unable to cover their insured losses and declared bankruptcy.

Photo courtesy of TLSmith Consulting Inc., Rockton, Ill.