Hurricane Andrew hits the Bahamas on this day in 1992. There and in South Florida, where it arrived two days later, the storm was responsible for the deaths of 26 people and an estimated $35 billion in property damage. Hurricane Andrew was so concentrated that it resembled a tornado in its effects.
On August 15, Andrew formed near Cape Verde in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. It then moved west, attaining hurricane status about 800 miles east of Miami. It was a Category 4 storm when it hit Eleutherea Island in the Bahamas, causing a 23-foot storm surge that devastated nearby Current Island. Andrew then moved due west toward Florida. With a very small diameter, it covered distances faster than most hurricanes. South Florida is vulnerable to hurricanes–as well as being in the likely path of many storms, it is only about 20 feet above sea level.
In the early morning of August 24, Andrew came ashore at Florida City, about 20 miles south of Miami. It had winds of 140 mph with gusts up to 212 mph. Rain was not a big factor in the storm, since it was moving very quickly and had a relatively compact punch, but it was still incredibly destructive. In Kendall and Homestead, Andrew uprooted every tree and destroyed 90 percent of the towns’ homes. The Homestead Air Base was also demolished and all of Dade County lost its electricity. There were reports of trucks being thrown through the air and steel beams flying 150 feet. The 210-ton freighter Seaward Explorer lost its anchor and was carried over the entire landmass of Elliot Key.
In all, 25,000 homes, 8,000 businesses and 15,000 boats were lost to Hurricane Andrew. Even zoo animals were killed or pushed out of their homes. There was extensive reef damage and approximately $1 billion worth of crop losses. It took only 4 hours for Andrew to clear Florida and reach the Gulf of Mexico. Once there, it continued on to Louisiana, but, by that time, had lost considerable strength. Still, it spawned several tornadoes and retained hurricane status until August 26, when it was downgraded to a tropical storm.