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Hurricane Andrew was the last and third most powerful of three Category 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the United States during the 20th century, after the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969. Andrew caused 65 deaths along its path.

Andrew was the first named storm and only major hurricane of the otherwise inactive 1992 Atlantic hurricane season. During Andrew's duration it struck the northwestern Bahamasmarker, southern Floridamarker at Homesteadmarker (south of Miamimarker), and southwest Louisianamarker around Morgan Citymarker in August. Andrew caused $26.5 billion in damage ($38.1 billion in 2006 US dollars), with most of that damage cost in south Florida, although other sources put damage between $27 billion to $34 billion in total costs. Its central pressure ranks as fourth-lowest in U.S. landfall records and Andrew was the costliest Atlantic hurricane in U.S. history until surpassed by Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 season. It was also the first of two Category 4 or higher storms to strike the United States that year (Hurricane Iniki in the Central Pacific struck Hawaii a few weeks later).

Background

At the time Andrew was the first major hurricane to affect the Florida peninsula in over twenty-five years. Hurricane Donna of 1960 had been the last major storm to pass directly over south Florida peninsula, making two landfalls: one of over the Keys: and the second over Naples, Floridamarker located on the state's west coast. After landfall Donna moved northeast, diagonally crossing Florida, and exited the state around the area of Daytona Beachmarker, thus sparing Miami. Hurricane Carla of 1964 would directly make a landfall over Miami and south Florida, yet only achieved category 2 status and, much like Andrew, was compact in size limiting its scope of damage. Hurricane Betsy, which made landfall in 1965, was the last storm of any significance to affect south Florida and Betsy's eye had made landfall in the northern Florida Keysmarker, several miles south of Miami. In the time that spanned these three storms and Andrew, Florida, as well as the entire Atlantic basin, experienced a relative lull in hurricane activity. Between 1965 and 1992 only two hurricanes of any significance affected Florida. Hurricane Elena, a category 3 which eventually made landfall in Mississippi, and Hurricane Kate a late season, borderline category 1-2 storm, both affected Florida within weeks of each other in 1985, however, these storms inflicted their worst wrath on the Florida panhandle. In this time span Florida saw increased coastal and suburban development as well as population growth. By 1992 the demographics of central and south Florida had changed with many residents relocated from areas in the Northeast, and upper Midwest. Thus a significant portion of the Floridian population in 1992 had little or no direct experience with Florida's history of violent hurricanes, a fact that worried many forecasters at the time.

Meteorological history

Infrared image of Andrew making landfall in Florida
A tropical wave moved off the coast of Africa on August 14. Under the influence of a ridge of high pressure to its north, the wave tracked quickly westward. An area of convection developed along the wave axis to the south of the Cape Verdemarker islands, and on August 15 meteorologists began classifying the system with the Dvorak technique. The thunderstorm activity became more concentrated, and narrow spiral rainbands developed around a developing center of circulation. Based on a Dvorak T-number of 2.0, it is estimated Tropical Depression Three developed late on August 16 about eastsoutheast of Barbadosmarker.

Embedded within the deep easterlies, the depression tracked westnorthwestward at . Initially, moderate wind shear prevented strengthening, though a decrease in shear allowed the depression to intensify into Tropical Storm Andrew at around 1200 UTC on August 17. By early on August 18, the storm maintained concentrated convection near the center with spiral bands to its west as the winds increased to . Shortly thereafter the thunderstorms decreased markedly during the diurnal minimum, and as the storm turned to the northwest increased southwesterly wind shear from an upper-level low prevented Andrew from maintaining deep convection. On August 19, a Hurricane Hunters flight into the storm failed to locate a well-defined center, and the next day a flight found that the cyclone had degenerated to the extent that only a diffuse low-level circulation center remained; observations indicated the pressure rose to an unusually high 1015 mbar. The flight indicated Andrew maintained a vigorous circulation aloft, with winds of recorded at flight level. Subsequently, the upper-level low weakened and split into a trough, which decreased the wind shear over the storm. Simultaneously, a strong high pressure cell developed over the southeastern United States, which built eastward and caused Andrew to turn to the west. Convection became more organized as upper-level outflow became better established. An eye formed, and Andrew attained hurricane status early on August 22 while located about eastsoutheast of Nassau, Bahamasmarker.

Six hours after becoming a hurricane, Andrew was predicted to make landfall near Jupiter, Floridamarker with winds of . The hurricane accelerated as it tracked due westward into an area of very favorable conditions, and late on August 22 began rapidly intensifying; in a 24 hour period the pressure dropped 47 mbar to a minimum pressure of 922 mbar. On August 23 the cyclone attained Category 5 status on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, and at 1800 UTC Hurricane Andrew reached peak winds of while located a short distance off Eleutheramarker island in the Bahamasmarker. Operationally, the National Hurricane Center assessed its peak intensity as , which was upgraded to in post-analysis; the hurricane was re-classified as a Category 5 hurricane twelve years subsequent to the hurricane. A small tropical cyclone, winds of extended out only about from its center. Subsequent to peaking in intensity, the hurricane underwent an eyewall replacement cycle, and at 2100 UTC on August 23, Hurricane Andrew struck Eleuthera with winds of . The cyclone weakened further while crossing the Bahama Banksmarker, and at 0100 UTC on August 24 Andrew hit the southern Berry Islandsmarker of the Bahamas with winds of . As it crossed over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream in the Straits of Floridamarker, the hurricane rapidly re-intensified as the eye decreased in size and its eyewall convection deepened. At 0840 UTC on August 24, Andrew struck Elliott Keymarker with winds of and a pressure of 926 mbar. The hurricane continued to strengthen up to and slightly after landfall, and 25 minutes after its first Floridamarker landfall Andrew hit near Homesteadmarker with a slightly lower pressure and winds of 150mph.

Satellite image of Hurricane Andrew approaching Louisiana
As the eye moved onshore, the convection in the eyewall strengthened owing to increased convergence, and Hurricane Hunters reported a warmer eyewall temperature than two hours prior. However, Hurricane Andrew weakened as the eye continued further inland, and after crossing southern Florida in four hours, the eye emerged into the Gulf of Mexicomarker with winds of . The eye remained well-defined as the hurricane turned to the westnorthwest, a change due to the weakening of the ridge to its north. Andrew steadily re-intensified over the Gulf of Mexico, reaching winds of by late on August 25. As the high pressure system to its north weakened, a strong mid-latitude trough approached the area from the northwest. This caused the hurricane to decelerate to the northwest, and winds decreased as Andrew approached the Gulf Coast of the United States. At 0830 UTC on August 26 the cyclone made its final landfall in a sparsely populated area of Louisianamarker about westsouthwest of Morgan Citymarker with winds of . Hurricane Andrew weakened rapidly as it turned to the north and northeast, and within ten hours weakened to a tropical storm. After entering Mississippimarker, the cyclone deteriorated to tropical depression status early on August 27. Accelerating northeastward, the tropical depression began merging with the approaching frontal system, and by midday on August 28 Andrew ceased to meet the qualifications of a tropical cyclone while located over the southern Appalachian Mountainsmarker. The remnants continued to the northeast and lost its identity within the frontal zone over the Mid-Atlantic states.

Statistics

Reports from private barometers helped establish that Andrew's central pressure, at landfall near Homestead, Floridamarker, was 27.23 inches (922 hPa). At the time, this was the third-lowest pressure on record for a landfalling hurricane in the United States (it is now fourth, after 2005's Hurricane Katrina).

Andrew's peak winds in South Florida were not directly measured, primarily because of the destruction or failure of measuring instruments. The Coastal Marine Automated Network (C-MAN) station at Fowey Rocks, with platform elevation of , in its last transmission at 4:30 a.m. EDT, August 24, recorded an 8-minute average wind of with a peak gust of shortly before the equipment was destroyed. It is probable that higher winds occurred at Fowey Rocks after the station was destroyed.

Another important wind speed report came from the Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport, located nine miles (14 km) west of the shoreline. While weather observations had been suspended at the station, the official weather observer there stayed on duty and continued to make wind speed readings. At 4:45 a.m. EDT, August 24, he noted that the wind speed indicator was "pegged" at a position a little beyond the instrument's highest value of , at a point he estimated to be around . The needle reportedly remained "fixed" at this location for 3–5 minutes before dropping to "0" when the anemometer failed. These observations were closely corroborated by two other observers. He also indicated that the weather conditions continued to worsen for an additional 30 minutes after the anemometer failed. It is probable that much stronger winds occurred at this location.

The highest recorded surface gust, within Andrew's northern eyewall, occurred at the home of a resident about a mile from the shoreline in Perrine, Florida. During the peak of the storm, a gust of was observed before both the home and anemometer were destroyed. Subsequent wind-tunnel testing at Clemson Universitymarker of the same type of anemometer revealed a 16.5% error. The observed value was officially corrected to be .

Data collected at the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Stationmarker terminated at 5:05 EDT before winds reached maximum strength. The anemometer recorded sustained winds of 145 mph before it failed, and a barometric pressure of 922 mb was recorded (equal to the lowest observed surface pressure of 922 mb recorded in Perrine at a private home). Gusts exceeding 175 mph were also observed. The data from Turkey Point reflects shoreline measurements (not inland), as it is situated directly on the coastline.A National Weather Service-Miami Radar image recorded on 24 August 1992 at 4:35 EDT [08:35 UTC] superimposed on a street map by the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA cleary indicates the most powerful winds within the northern eyewall (conditions greater than 48 dBZ) made landfall between SW 152 St. (Coral Reef Drive) and SW 184 St. (Eureka Drive) in the Perrine/Cutler Ridge area. dBZ readings indicate Decibels of Z (radar echo intensity/reflectivity) and help map the relative strength of storm activity within a weather system. This extremely powerful band within the northern eyewall corresponds with the exact latitude range where the highest surface wind gusts of 177 mph and lowest barometric pressure (922 mb) were recorded at a private home in Perrine and evaluated by Clemson University. This corridor is also in line with the former Burger King corporate headquarters, located on the shoreline at the terminus of 184th St. (Eureka Drive), where one of the highest storm surge levels was recorded (16.9 ft).

In 2002, The Atlantic Basin Hurricane Database Reanalysis Project examined Hurricane Andrew and this corridor of extreme winds embedded within Andrew's northern eyewall. The project concluded that Category 5 conditions on land occurred only in a small region of southern Dade (now Miami-Dade) County, specifically close to the coast in Cutler Ridge. The remaining areas affected by Andrew's initial landfall in Florida likely experienced sustained Category 4 and 3 hurricane conditions. Andrew was officially re-classified as a Category 5 storm in 2004, and the reanalysis provides a more comprehensive and detailed examination of Andrew's wind field structure upon landfall than originally assessed in 1992.

The National Hurricane Center, then located along U.S. 1 in Coral Gables, recorded a peak gust of measured above the ground, just before 5 a.m. EDT, August 24. At 5:17 a.m. EDT, the anemometer was severely damaged and by 5:45 a.m. had been completely destroyed.

High winds occurred in other locations across Southern Florida, including peak gusts of estimated at Miami International Airportmarker and recorded at Haulover Beach, Florida.

In 2002, as part of an ongoing review of historical hurricane records, National Hurricane Center experts concluded that Andrew had sustained winds of briefly before and during landfall, making it a Category 5.

Berwick, Louisianamarker reported sustained winds of with gusts to . The highest gust of was reported from a drilling barge on Bayou Teche in coastal St. Mary Parishmarker, Louisianamarker.

Preparations

Bahamas

Before impact in the Bahamasmarker predictions were for a 10 to storm surge, rising locally to , and for 5 to of rain. Evacuations were ordered by emergency management officials, and at 5 PM local time residents throughout the region of Bahamas and Florida were warned to take precautions to protect life and property. On August 22 hurricane watches were issued from Andros and Eleuthera Islands northward through Grand Bahama and Great Abaco, they were upgraded to hurricane warnings later that day. On August 23 a hurricane warning was issued for Central Bahamas including Cat Island, Great Exuma, San Salvador, and Long Island. All watches and warnings were discontinued on August 24.

United States

Florida

By 11 PM Eastern Standard Time, residents were warned that precautions to protect life and property should have been completed. About 55,000 people left the Florida Keys. Evacuations were ordered for 517,000 people in Dade County, 300,000 in Broward County, 315,000 in Palm Beach County and 15,000 in St. Lucie County. For counties further west in Florida, evacuation totals exceeding one thousand people are Collier (25,000), Glades (4,000) and Lee (2,500). A 7 to storm surge was predicted for Eastern Florida and the Florida Keys, and a 7 to storm surge was predicted for Western Florida before the storm exited Florida. Some isolated tornadoes were also predicted for South and Central Florida for August 23 and August 24. At least 1,500 National Guard troops were deployed to Florida to prevent looting. Many hurricane watches and warnings were issued in Florida due to Hurricane Andrew. Including a hurricane warning issued on August 23, that stretched from Vero Beachmarker, all the way to the Florida Keysmarker and to Dry Tortugasmarker. All watches and warning in the state were discontinued late on August 24 after Andrew moved offshore of Florida.

Louisiana

Sandbag walls were created in the South Bell Telephone Building in New Orleansmarker. Sandbag walls were also created in the French Quartermarker section of New Orleansmarker. Floodgates were also closed throughout New Orleans Levees. Sandbags for the public ran out because of the protection of major areas. Planes headed to and from New Orleans were cancelled. There were many watches and warnings issued because of Andrew. For about two days the entire southern coast of Louisiana was covered in warning and watches. All hurricane watches and warnings were discontinued after Andrew made landfall near Morgan City, Louisiana.

Elsewhere

As Andrew approached the Gulf Coast, watches and warnings were also issued in Alabamamarker, Mississippimarker, and Texasmarker. All watches and warnings were discontinued on August 25.

Florida

As with most high-intensity storms (Categories 4 and 5), the worst damage from Andrew is thought to have occurred not from straight-line winds but from vortices, or tornadoes or "miniwhirls" (something like embedded tornadoes). This was the conclusion of Tetsuya Theodore Fujita, a University of Chicagomarker meteorologist who is known for the development of the Fujita scale for measuring the strength of tornadoes.

Looting also occurred in Florida after the storm, with at least 100 people attempting to ransack the Cutler Ridge shopping mall south of Miamimarker. However, the deployment of 600 National Guard troops in the region restored order.

Andrew produced a storm surge near the landfall point in Florida. A tidal surge of was recorded at the shoreline of SW 184th Street (Eureka Drive), the former location of the Burger King world corporate headquarters on the coast of the Perrine/Cutler Ridge area (directly within the path of the northern eyewall). Storm surge destruction was minimal, though, because of Andrew not moving over Miami itself.

Rainfall was limited in Southeast Florida because of Andrew traveling through at fast speeds (between 20 and 25 mph forward speed).

Unlike most hurricanes, the vast majority of the damage in Florida was due to the winds. The agricultural loss in Florida was $1.04 billion alone.

In Dade Countymarker 90% of homes had major roof damage. 117,000 were destroyed or had major damage.

The Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Stationmarker 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 mph.
Rainfall totals caused by Andrew


Massive damage caused by Andrew at Homestead Air Force Basemarker, 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 Air Basemarker in Italy.

Power lines to the Florida Keysmarker were destroyed, leaving residents without power. However, water was maintained, although it had to be boiled.

There was also moderate damage to the coral reef areas offshore of Florida down to depths of .

Louisiana

After hitting Florida, Andrew moved across the Gulf of Mexico and once again made landfall in south-central Louisianamarker.About 152,000 electricity customers lost their power because of the impact of Andrew. Four people were also killed as a result of Andrew.

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. The F3 tornado hit Laplacemarker and stayed on ground until Reservemarker, St. John the Baptist Parish. The tornado caused two deaths.

Damage was done to soy bean, corn, and sugar cane crops. The damage estimated done to the sugar cane was $200 million.

A Coast Guard helicopter had to rescue 4 people and 2 dogs from a disabled fishing boat, south of Houmamarker.

Aftermath

Florida

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 Countymarker) 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.

An entire Miami neighborhood is leveled.
slow response of federal aid to storm victims in southern Florida led Dade Countymarker 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, along with units from the 82nd Airborne Division, began pouring in.

Insurance claims in the wake of the extreme damage caused by Andrew led to the bankruptcy and closure of 11 insurance agencies and drained an excessive amount of equity from 30 more. An estimated $16 billion of the total losses (mainly structural) were insured. The Federal Insurance Administration estimated that flood damage from the hurricane would total $100 million and that the program would cover all expected claims. Even though a state-managed catastrophe fund was implemented to provide protection for the industry and its consumers, insurance rates and deductibles drastically increased. Nearly one million residences were no longer eligible for coverage by any insurance agency. This led the Florida Legislature to create new agencies (the Joint Underwriting Association, the Florida Windstorm Underwriting Association and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund) to restore adequate insurance coverage.

Homeowners and officials criticized developers and contractors for inadequate building practices and poor building codes. An inquiry after the storm concluded that there were probably construction flaws in some buildings, and that the state of Floridamarker did enforce some strict building codes since 1986, but they were either overlooked or ignored.However, the evidence was not sufficient enough to issue criminal charges for neglect.

The effects of Hurricane Andrew on Florida wetlands were considerable. In the Florida Evergladesmarker, 25%, of trees were knocked down by the storm. It took 20 days for new trees and vegetation to grow following the storms passing. Damage to marine life was moderate as the storm increased the turbidity and lowered the oxygen level in the water, threatening many fish and other marine wildlife. In addition, the storm killed 182 million fish in the basin, causing $160 million (1992 USD) in lost value.In the decade after the storm, Hurricane Andrew may have contributed to the massive and sudden housing boom in Broward County, Floridamarker. Located just north of Miami-Dade Countymarker, residents who had lost their homes migrated to western sections of the county that were just starting to be developed. The result was record growth in places like Miramarmarker, Pembroke Pinesmarker and Westonmarker.

Louisiana

In Louisiana, the hurricane knocked down 80% of the trees in part of the Atchafalaya River Basin near the coast. Offshore, the storm killed 9.4 million fish, causing $7.8 million (1992 USD) in lost value, and damaged large areas of marshland along the Louisianamarker coast.

About 6,200 people had to be housed in 36 separate shelters, according to the American Red Cross. The Salvation Army sent in 37 mobile food storage faculties, that served 40,000 meals, to help those who could get little or no food.

Federal aid, from the Pentagon, sent in four 750 kilowatt generators, 2,500 cots, and 30,000 MRE's, or prepackaged meals, to Louisiana. About 1,279 National Guard were deployed to Louisiana, to do various duties, from cooking to patrolling.

Sheriffs along the coast of Louisiana imposed a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time. Alcohol sales were also banned immediately after the storm.

Retirement

Because of the exceptional and widespread damage in Florida and Louisiana, the name Andrew was retired in the Spring of 1993, and will never again be used for an Atlantic hurricane. The name was replaced by Alex for the 1998 season; Alex was used again in 2004 and will be used again in 2010.

Notes

  1. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/gifs/1992ed_andr2.gif
  2. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/gifs/1992andy.JPG
  3. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/1992andrew.html#TABLE5
  4. (Florida Keys Hurricanes of the Last Millennium)
  5. Pear, R. Hurricane Andrew: Breakdown seen in U.S. storm aid. The New York Times. August 29, 1992, p. 1.
  6. An American history of disaster and response. National Public Radio. [Online] September 23, 2005. [Cited: October 25, 2009.] http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4839530.
  7. Building Codes St. Petersburg Times: Hurricane Andrew 10 Year Special Edition
  8. Ten Years after Hurricane Andrew St Petersburg Times
  9. Environmental Effects of Hurricane Andrew United States Geological Survey Report
  10. http://water.usgs.gov/nwsum/WSP2425/andrew.html
  11. http://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/retired.asp


References

  1. Modified after the National Hurricane Center web site. This U.S. government site is in the public domain.


Further reading

Rick Gore: "Andrew aftermath" National Geographic Magazine April 1993

See also



External links




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