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Remembering What Hurricane Andrew did to South Florida 23 years ago

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Remembering What Hurricane Andrew did to South Florida 23 years ago

Hurricane Andrew, which killed at least 10 people in Dade County, knocked out power to 1.3 million households, punished South Dade and changed the very nature of the region, left a cleanup job Monday of nightmarish dimensions.

At least three others died in the Bahamas.

President Bush came to Miami for a firsthand look at a hurricane expected to cost more than Hugo.

Andrew’s eye hit shore near Florida City, 25 miles south of downtown Miami, at 4:52 a.m., descending with wind gusts up to 168 miles per hour. It roared across the state to Fort Myers and swept into the Gulf of Mexico, its next victim uncertain. A hurricane warning was posted from Pascagoula, Miss., to Vermilion Bay, La.

The killer, still whirling 140 mph winds, was expected to reach land again sometime tonight or Wednesday morning.

In Andrew’s wake here, power may be out a week or more in some sections of South Dade, the county imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew to fight growing instances of looting and the president pledged an immediate $50 million in federal disaster aid — even before his two-hour stop in Miami.

“My heart goes out to the people of Florida,” Bush said.

By far, the worst damage was from Kendall south to Florida City.

Homestead Air Force Base was one casualty: every building was either destroyed or damaged, said Navy Cmdr. Mike Thurwanger in Washington. The base commander told his 6,500 military and 1,000 civilians workers to stay away for at least five days.

“Homestead Air Force Base no longer exists,” said Toni Riordan of the state Community Affairs Department.

Broward and Palm Beach counties suffered widespread power shortages and downed trees. The Keys escaped relatively unscathed, with the greatest damage in Key Largo.

In South Dade, Andrew tossed roofs off houses, leveled self-storage warehouses, mowed down trees and chewed up nurseries’ black ground tarps.

“It’s like an air bomb went off,” Gov. Lawton Chiles said after a helicopter tour. “Complete devastation . . . Homestead has got to be rebuilt.”

Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., who took the 85-minute helicopter tour with Chiles, has toured every Florida hurricane since 1979. He called Andrew the worst he has seen: “There are going to be thousands of families with no place to live. And that’s not for a few days. That’s for a long time.”

Another measuring stick: On Monday afternoon, Metro- Dade police counted more than 50 roads blocked by fallen trees and power lines in Dade County.

Police also pinpointed four especially hard-hit areas in South Dade: Country Walk at Coral Reef Drive and 137th Avenue; Devonaire, 112th Street and 112th Avenue; the Crossings, 104th Street and 127th Avenue; and the Hammocks, Coral Reef Drive and 112th Street.

Still, as bad as it was, Andrew could have been worse.

An expected storm surge bringing a wall of water over Miami Beach and Key Biscayne never materialized. Of the one million residents ordered evacuated, nearly 700,000 obeyed, including 84,000 who stayed in four dozen shelters. And phone service remained for the vast majority.

While the South Florida death toll stood at 10 Monday night, there’s a “probability we will find others,” said Willie Alvarez, chief of Metro Fire Rescue Department. The only person identified was Jesse James, 46, of Miami, who spent the night in an abandoned truck and was hit by a tree. The other nine: seven from South Dade, one from Coral Gables and one from North Dade.

Fire-rescue received between 900 and 1,200 calls, three to four times the usual rate.

In terms of sheer wind speed, Andrew was the worst to hit Miami since 1926, said forecaster Max Mayfield at the National Hurricane Center.

Damage assessment teams were fanning out on the ground, but the best understanding of Andrew’s wrath was seen by air.

From the plane that carried Graham and Chiles, an emerging picture of destruction:

Downtown Miami, broken office windows.

Around the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, splotchy roof tiles.

South Miami and Coral Gables, huge ficus trees uprooted, some shingles stripped from roofs, roofs torn.

Kendall, pool coverings ripped up, nearly every tree denuded, shingles off roofs.

Around Miami Southridge High School, whole neighborhoods affected, halves of roofs gone, rooms in homes exposed to the sky, lumber lying around like toothpicks.

Rural South Dade, nurseries shredded, trees snapped.

Naranja Lakes area, the first mobile home park decimated.Hurricane Andrew, which killed at least 10 people in Dade County, knocked out power to 1.3 million households, punished South Dade and changed the very nature of the region, left a cleanup job Monday of nightmarish dimensions.

Homestead and Florida City, much in rubble, fields flooded with creamy tannish water.

The plane swung back north and hugged the coastline.

In South Dade, a business casualty: the windows were blown out on the ocean-side of Burger King’s corporate headquarters.

Bill Baggs State Park on the southern tip of Key Biscayne, the Australian pines flattened.

Miami Beach, a noted absence of flooding.

Hurricane Andrew, which killed at least 10 people in Dade County, knocked out power to 1.3 million households, punished South Dade and changed the very nature of the region, left a cleanup job Monday of nightmarish dimensions.

At least three others died in the Bahamas.

President Bush came to Miami for a firsthand look at a hurricane expected to cost more than Hugo.

Andrew’s eye hit shore near Florida City, 25 miles south of downtown Miami, at 4:52 a.m., descending with wind gusts up to 168 miles per hour. It roared across the state to Fort Myers and swept into the Gulf of Mexico, its next victim uncertain. A hurricane warning was posted from Pascagoula, Miss., to Vermilion Bay, La.

The killer, still whirling 140 mph winds, was expected to reach land again sometime tonight or Wednesday morning.

In Andrew’s wake here, power may be out a week or more in some sections of South Dade, the county imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew to fight growing instances of looting and the president pledged an immediate $50 million in federal disaster aid — even before his two-hour stop in Miami.

“My heart goes out to the people of Florida,” Bush said.

By far, the worst damage was from Kendall south to Florida City.

Homestead Air Force Base was one casualty: every building was either destroyed or damaged, said Navy Cmdr. Mike Thurwanger in Washington. The base commander told his 6,500 military and 1,000 civilians workers to stay away for at least five days.

“Homestead Air Force Base no longer exists,” said Toni Riordan of the state Community Affairs Department.

Broward and Palm Beach counties suffered widespread power shortages and downed trees. The Keys escaped relatively unscathed, with the greatest damage in Key Largo.

In South Dade, Andrew tossed roofs off houses, leveled self-storage warehouses, mowed down trees and chewed up nurseries’ black ground tarps.

“It’s like an air bomb went off,” Gov. Lawton Chiles said after a helicopter tour. “Complete devastation . . . Homestead has got to be rebuilt.”

Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., who took the 85-minute helicopter tour with Chiles, has toured every Florida hurricane since 1979. He called Andrew the worst he has seen: “There are going to be thousands of families with no place to live. And that’s not for a few days. That’s for a long time.”

Another measuring stick: On Monday afternoon, Metro- Dade police counted more than 50 roads blocked by fallen trees and power lines in Dade County.

Police also pinpointed four especially hard-hit areas in South Dade: Country Walk at Coral Reef Drive and 137th Avenue; Devonaire, 112th Street and 112th Avenue; the Crossings, 104th Street and 127th Avenue; and the Hammocks, Coral Reef Drive and 112th Street.

Still, as bad as it was, Andrew could have been worse.

An expected storm surge bringing a wall of water over Miami Beach and Key Biscayne never materialized. Of the one million residents ordered evacuated, nearly 700,000 obeyed, including 84,000 who stayed in four dozen shelters. And phone service remained for the vast majority.

While the South Florida death toll stood at 10 Monday night, there’s a “probability we will find others,” said Willie Alvarez, chief of Metro Fire Rescue Department. The only person identified was Jesse James, 46, of Miami, who spent the night in an abandoned truck and was hit by a tree. The other nine: seven from South Dade, one from Coral Gables and one from North Dade.

Fire-rescue received between 900 and 1,200 calls, three to four times the usual rate.

In terms of sheer wind speed, Andrew was the worst to hit Miami since 1926, said forecaster Max Mayfield at the National Hurricane Center.

Damage assessment teams were fanning out on the ground, but the best understanding of Andrew’s wrath was seen by air.

From the plane that carried Graham and Chiles, an emerging picture of destruction:

Downtown Miami, broken office windows.

Around the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, splotchy roof tiles.

South Miami and Coral Gables, huge ficus trees uprooted, some shingles stripped from roofs, roofs torn.

Kendall, pool coverings ripped up, nearly every tree denuded, shingles off roofs.

Around Miami Southridge High School, whole neighborhoods affected, halves of roofs gone, rooms in homes exposed to the sky, lumber lying around like toothpicks.

Rural South Dade, nurseries shredded, trees snapped.

Naranja Lakes area, the first mobile home park decimated.Hurricane Andrew, which killed at least 10 people in Dade County, knocked out power to 1.3 million households, punished South Dade and changed the very nature of the region, left a cleanup job Monday of nightmarish dimensions.

Homestead and Florida City, much in rubble, fields flooded with creamy tannish water.

The plane swung back north and hugged the coastline.

In South Dade, a business casualty: the windows were blown out on the ocean-side of Burger King’s corporate headquarters.

Bill Baggs State Park on the southern tip of Key Biscayne, the Australian pines flattened.

Miami Beach, a noted absence of flooding.

And all along Biscayne Bay, an eerie truth of Andrew having its way: All the sea grasses are in straight lines, all leaning to the west.

What’s next?

Florida Power & Light expects power outages to last days to more than a week for sections of South Dade. Health officials issued a boil-water order for the Miami area.

County Manager Joaquin Avino Monday declared a countywide curfew from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The National Guard was called in to help.

Police say they hope the rule will stop looters and help emergency crews. Police spokesman Donald Blocker said anyone except emergency workers like nurses and tree cutters stopped outside after 7 p.m. will likely be arrested. Decisions about continuing the curfew will be made on a day-to-day basis.

Looters preyed on dozens of locations, but the thievery was scattered and not widespread by 9 p.m. Monday. Among the early targets: Cutler Ridge Mall, South Dade Shopping Center and the Circuit City at 19711 S. Dixie Highway. Four businesses in Little Haiti also reported looting.

Dade parks workers will spend weeks, if not months, cleaning up the debris. County Parks Director Bill Bird toured a half-dozen county parks and said “it seemed like half the damned trees were down in every park we visited. And it’s going to cost millions to clean this up.”

Many millions.

Wallace E. Stickney, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, flew to South Florida. Before he left Washington, Stickney said: “This will turn out to be one of the top three or four storms of the century.”

The storm was the same intensity as Hurricane Hugo, which left 85 people dead and $5.9 billion in damage as it swept through the Caribbean and into the Carolinas in 1989. Hugo hit largely rural areas.

Andrew, like Hugo, brought neighbors together.

On San Esteban Avenue in Coral Gables, Duffie Matson revved up his 1974 Chevy Blazer onto a street stacked with timber from uprooted black olives, jacarandas and Florida holly.

Neighbors tied a chain to the Blazer’s bumper and Matson ripped the limbs off the street and onto tree lawns. The kick- start cleanup invigorated some on the formerly tree-lined, tropical street.

“Now it’s just a tropical disaster area,” said Joe Hoyt after he used a machete to hack off the top of a fallen coconut palm. “I will cry later, I will. This place will never be the same again. Never.”

And all along Biscayne Bay, an eerie truth of Andrew having its way: All the sea grasses are in straight lines, all leaning to the west.

What’s next?

Florida Power & Light expects power outages to last days to more than a week for sections of South Dade. Health officials issued a boil-water order for the Miami area.

County Manager Joaquin Avino Monday declared a countywide curfew from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The National Guard was called in to help.

Police say they hope the rule will stop looters and help emergency crews. Police spokesman Donald Blocker said anyone except emergency workers like nurses and tree cutters stopped outside after 7 p.m. will likely be arrested. Decisions about continuing the curfew will be made on a day-to-day basis.

Looters preyed on dozens of locations, but the thievery was scattered and not widespread by 9 p.m. Monday. Among the early targets: Cutler Ridge Mall, South Dade Shopping Center and the Circuit City at 19711 S. Dixie Highway. Four businesses in Little Haiti also reported looting.

Dade parks workers will spend weeks, if not months, cleaning up the debris. County Parks Director Bill Bird toured a half-dozen county parks and said “it seemed like half the damned trees were down in every park we visited. And it’s going to cost millions to clean this up.”

Many millions.

Wallace E. Stickney, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, flew to South Florida. Before he left Washington, Stickney said: “This will turn out to be one of the top three or four storms of the century.”

The storm was the same intensity as Hurricane Hugo, which left 85 people dead and $5.9 billion in damage as it swept through the Caribbean and into the Carolinas in 1989. Hugo hit largely rural areas.

Andrew, like Hugo, brought neighbors together.

On San Esteban Avenue in Coral Gables, Duffie Matson revved up his 1974 Chevy Blazer onto a street stacked with timber from uprooted black olives, jacarandas and Florida holly.

Neighbors tied a chain to the Blazer’s bumper and Matson ripped the limbs off the street and onto tree lawns. The kick- start cleanup invigorated some on the formerly tree-lined, tropical street.

“Now it’s just a tropical disaster area,” said Joe Hoyt after he used a machete to hack off the top of a fallen coconut palm. “I will cry later, I will. This place will never be the same again. Never.”

Entrepreneur, contributor, writer, and editor of Sostre News. With a powerful new bi-lingual speaking generation by his side, Sostre News is becoming the preferred site for the latest in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Culture, Tech, Breaking and World News.

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Tropical Storm Earl Reaches Hurricane Strength

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Tropical Storm Earl has officially reached  the level of a category 1 hurricane. The hurricane packing 130 kilometer (80 mile) per hour winds and heavy rain made landfall in Central America near Belize’s capital, where officials warned of likely flooding and damage to homes Thursday.

Earl swept in from the Caribbean at hurricane strength to strike just south of Belize City, population 60,000, around midnight Wednesday (0600 GMT Thursday), according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).

The storm weakened as it moved inland, and by 1200 GMT the NHC had downgraded it from a hurricane to a tropical storm with 65 mile (105 kilometer) per hour winds.

Belize’s National Emergency Management Organization had warned of a threat of flashfloods and mudslides and flooding in low-lying areas.

Earl was expected to dissipate further as it moves across northern Guatemala and southern Mexico, the NHC said.

The Mexican authorities took no chances, evacuating 300 families living close to a river along the border with Belize in the southeastern state of Quinta Roo for fear of flooding.

More than 750 shelters were readied in the state in preparation for expected high winds and fierce gusts.

Other southern Mexican states likely to be affected were Campeche, Tabasco and Yucatan.

In the northern Guatemala town of Puerto Barrios, a military commander, Colonel Nelson Tun, told AFP that “patrols in vulnerable areas” were being carried out.

“We have identified high areas to where the population can evacuate before possible flooding,” he said.

Guatemala in particular is prone to rainy season flooding and mudslides that often prove fatal.

Guatemala’s population, at 16 million, is much bigger than the 330,000 in Belize, Central America’s only English speaking country.

Guatemala’s president, Jimmy Morales, late Wednesday offered Belize humanitarian aid and shelters along the border if needed.

That gesture was significant after months of tensions between the two countries following a shooting death of a Guatemalan boy by a Belizean border patrol in April.

The fifth named tropical storm of the 2016 season, Earl strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane on Wednesday, according to the NHC. Winds initially measured at 120 kilometers per hour picked up just before landfall.

Category 1, the lowest of five grades on the hurricane scale, is described as having dangerous winds of between 119 and 153 kilometers per hour that can rip off roofs, bring down trees and cause extensive damage to power lines.

Belizean public and private sector workers were permitted to go to their homes Wednesday to secure property.

Officials warned that people living on the ground floor “will experience flooding” and some older wooden buildings would likely be destroyed.

The authorities have opened 29 shelters.

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Tropical Storm Colin Barrels Toward Florida; State Guard Activated

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Tropical Storm Colin Barrels Toward Florida; State Guard Activated

TAMPA, Fla. – Tropical Storm Colin unleashed thunderstorms and flooding on Florida on Monday, prompting the governor to activate the national guard as the storm with 50-mph-winds barreled through the Gulf of Mexico toward the state’s northwest coast.

The storm, about 165 miles (265 km) from the Florida coast as of 2 p.m. (1800 GMT), was forecast to dump as much as 8 inches (20 cm) of rain in some parts of the state. The combination of the storm surge and high tides threatened to bring flooding to coastal areas from Florida up through North Carolina, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

The storm was forecast to make landfall below Florida’s panhandle late on Monday afternoon, on a track that would take it over the state and through southern Georgia and then along the Atlantic Ocean coast over South Carolina and North Carolina, the center said.

Governor Rick Scott said more than 6,000 Florida National Guard members were activated and ready for deployment. He also declared a state of emergency in 34 of the state’s 67 counties.Rip tides, lightning, tornado and hail posed dangers to communities far beyond Colin’s immediate path, Scott said.

“It’s going to impact pretty much our entire state,” Scott told a news conference.

In the St. Petersburg beach town of Gulfport, roads were already flooded. One resident used a kayak to float down a thoroughfare past a waterfront cafe that stayed open, allowing people used to severe weather to witness the storm.

More than 10,000 customers were without power ahead of the storm making landfall, local utilities reported.

“This is a mild tempest,” said Trace Taylor, a local writer lunching on onion rings. “What’s there to be afraid of? It’s just water and it’s not that bad.”

The storm also threatened crops in Florida, the country’s biggest citrus producer, which sent U.S. orange juice futures on Monday to their highest in more than two years.

Concerns about storm surges exacerbated by high tides prompted voluntary evacuations in low-lying areas of Franklin County, Florida, about 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Tallahassee.

Flooding and isolated tornadoes threatened densely populated communities from south of the Tampa Bay region through Jacksonville on the east coast, according to the National Weather Service.

Waters could rise by 1 to 3 feet (30 cm to 90 cm) along the state’s western coast from the storm surges.

Colin is part of a brisk start to the Atlantic hurricane season that runs through Nov. 30. Over the U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend, the Carolinas were lashed by heavy rain and winds from Tropical Storm Bonnie.

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Say Goodbye to El Niño, Hello La Niña

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Say Goodbye to El Niño, Hello La Niña

The grip of one of the strongest El Niños in recorded history is loosening, and in its place it appears that the cool flipside, La Niña, is arriving, writes Dennis Mersereau for Mental Floss.

Both phenomena are part of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, ENSO, a natural climate variation that swings between warm and rainy conditions (El Niño) in the central-eastern Pacific and cooler, drier conditions (La Niña). The long tongue of slightly-warmer-than-average surface water that makes up El Niño has been weakening and beneath the surface, “a deep pool of cool water has been sliding slowly eastward for the past couple of months,” writes Rebecca Lindsey for Climate.gov, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

If water temperatures persist more than 0.5 degrees Celsius below average, then La Niña has arrived. There’s a 75 percent chance that will happen by this fall, writes Emily Becker for NOAA’s ENSO blog. For now, global weather patterns are still under the sway of El Niño, technically, but the trend is toward more neutral conditions, she explains. If trends continue, El Niño should kick it at the end of the summer.

This visualization shows how temperatures in the top 1,000 feet, approximately, of the Pacific Ocean at the equator were warmer or cooler than average during 5-day periods centered on three dates this spring: March 14, April 13 and May 3.  (NOAA Climate.gov NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab GODAS)

This visualization shows how temperatures in the top 1,000 feet, approximately, of the Pacific Ocean at the equator were warmer or cooler than average during 5-day periods centered on three dates this spring: March 14, April 13 and May 3. (NOAA Climate.gov NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab GODAS)

The water temperatures and pressure anomalies that herald these patterns might center over the central-eastern Pacific, but the effects ripple across the globe, changing precipitation and temperature patterns in many regions. In North America, the winters are usually milder during an El Niño and the West coast, southern U.S. and southeast see more rainy days.

When La Niña arrives, the U.S. Southwest, central and southern Rockies, the Great Plains and Florida usually have drier weather. Winters under La Niña are likely to be colder in the Northwest, northern California, northern Intermountain West and north-central states. However, although experts have noticed those trends, they have trouble predicting exactly how any one El Niño or La Niña will play out.

“[As] still-parched Californians found out this year, each event is different, and not all of them affect the weather as we would expect,” writes Mersereau.

Experts get some idea about how the pattern affects global weather and for how long by looking at past events. Becker writes that there are 14 La Niñas on record:

Of those 14 La Niñas, nine immediately followed El Niño years. Two occurred two years after an El Niño, with a neutral year intervening. Two were the second year of a “double dip” La Niña, where sea surface temperatures briefly returned to neutral during the summer before heading back into La Niña territory (1974/75 and 2011/12). The remaining one starts the records off in 1950.

La Niñas also tend to last longer than El Niños. After the unusually strong 1997/98 El Niño, La Niña lasted for 33 months, spanning three winters.

Still, even with a potential La Niña on the way, 2016 is on track to become the hottest year in recorded history, beating out 2015, Maddie Stone notes for Gizmodo. April 2016 was the 12th consecutive warmest month on record. She explains that even with the powerful influences of oscillating climate anomalies, “humans now control the master switch when it comes to our planet’s thermostat.”

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