As the cliché goes, every [hurricane] cloud has a silver lining.
On August 14, 1992, a small and seemingly insignificant tropical wave developed off the west coast of Africa. Three days later, the depression reached tropical storm status, earning the innocent name Andrew. After intensifying over warm Gulf Stream waters, not-so-innocent Andrew slammed into Miami-Dade County at 5:05am on August 24.
The first Atlantic tropical storm of the 1992 hurricane season arrived in South Florida at an ill-fated time. 27 years had passed since South Florida's last major hurricane landfall, and memories of Betsy's 1965 destruction had faded. Some Floridians grew complacent when it came to hurricane preparation and naively put masking tape on windows as a "protective" measure. Building codes were poorly enforced and traditional stick frame houses were widespread. When it rains, it pours (pun intended)!
Plowing into the coast with one-minute sustained winds over 165mph, Andrew's rampage resulted in $26.5 billion in damages (1992 USD), making it the costliest natural disaster in the US at the time. Andrew destroyed over 25,000 homes and damaged over 100,000 others. The storm left nearly 250,000 people temporarily homeless and 65 dead. One of only three Category 5 hurricanes to strike the mainland US, Andrew was appropriately retired from the list of Atlantic Hurricane names.
So, with all the destruction and unprecedented economic devastation, what's Andrew's silver lining?
In response to Andrew, Florida improved hurricane preparedness, emergency management and disaster recovery. The state beefed up building codes and began regular house inspections. Andrew left a mark on the re/insurance industry by changing our perception of risk and stimulating trust in catastrophe models.
The 25-year mark of Andrew's landfall is an opportunity to not only memorialize Andrew's unacceptable loss of life and tremendous damage, but also to reflect: What happened? What went wrong? What did we learn? What are the short-term and long-term effects of those lessons? How can communities become more resilient and better prepare for the next Andrew?
To address these questions, Swiss Re has prepared a special blog series that will collectively offer reflections on Andrew, its lasting impacts and its silver linings. Keep an eye on our Open Minds blogging platform and our corporate social media platforms for more!
Hurricane Andrew Fast Facts
Mainland U.S. landfall date: August 24, 1992 at 5:05am EST
Mainland U.S. landfall location: Fender Point, Florida (8 miles from Homestead)
Maximum 1-minute sustained wind speed at landfall: 166mph (category 5)
Properties damaged: 100,000+
Properties destroyed: 25,000+
Deaths: 26 direct, 39 indirect
Damages: $26.5 billion (1992 USD)
People left temporarily homeless: 250,000
Category: Climate/natural disasters: Disaster risk, Floods/storms, Resilience