Tracking the Tropics
Hurricane Andrew 20th Anniversary
WSVN -- Aug. 24, 1992. 5 a.m.
"We have the core of the hurricane coming in here. It's well-formed, and it's going to cause significant damage."
Significant damage. Who knew what an understatement that would turn out to be?
Ken Toliver: "It's really picking up here on Collins and about 82nd."
Andrew was supposed to hit Miami Beach, but it took a dip and landed in South Dade.
Patrick Fraser: "The trucks almost tipped over. We're coming down, Alice Jacobs. At this point, guys, that's the best we can hope for. We don't want anybody to get hurt here."
If you were in the path of Andrew, you remember: You weren't concerned with getting hurt. You were worried you were going to die.
"You can feel this whole wall moving that I've got my shoulder against."
"I started to scream, 'God, please don't kill me! Don't take me, please!'"
Andrew's 140-mile-per-hour winds, combined with hundreds of tornadoes, destroyed everything.
As the sun came up, I will never forget the sight.
No one who was there during and after Andrew ever will.
"I was a combat medic in Vietnam, and the devastation does not compare with the devastation here."
Homes leveled, cars smashed. It sounds strange to say, but if you just lost a roof, you were considered lucky.
Arlene Rodriguez: "The roof came off, and all of us were screaming in the room."
Many people were forced to run from room to room as their homes blew up around them.
Man: "The rumbling, the shaking."
Woman: "He dug me out of the rubble twice and put me where I needed to go."
Woman: "I said, 'The daylight coming! Please, I want the daylight! I want the daylight!'"
But all the daylight did was shine a light on the destruction, and make it clear, the nightmare had only begun.
"There's nothing. There's nothing left."
"There's no more Homestead. I don't think there's a building I've seen that hasn't been destroyed."
The storm of the century killed 44 people, destroyed 170,000 homes. Think about 170,000 houses and trailers gone, leaving 250,000 people without a place to live.
Girl: "I wish it wouldn't have happened."
And it got worse: No food, no water, no help.
"It's survival of the fittest, every man and woman for themselves."
Finally, Kate Hale, then head of Dade County's Emergency Operations, challenged the country and spoke out in frustration.
Kate Hale: "Where in the hell is the cavalry?"
Coincidence or not, the help started arriving.
President George Bush landed in a field near what was left of Homestead to see the National Guard go to work.
Tents gave families a place to sleep at night.
"It's better than anywhere. We have light here, we have everything."
Supplies poured in, trucks and helicopters bringing water and packaged meals for more than 100,000 people.
"Here you go, ma'am."
Parents stood in line to get food for their babies, and then slept in tents with hundreds of others, one eye open to make sure they were safe.
"Can you move back in your house?"
Patrick Fraser: "Many people gave up, got their insurance money, loaded up a car or truck, took off, and never returned. But things finally got better, not in a day or a week, but over months and years. Today, Homestead is bigger and better, no visible sign of that horrible storm, unless you search people's memories."
"A lot of dreams to this, all gone overnight. Just like two hours. Words can't explain it. You have to live it yourself."