Max Mayfield: Remembering loss of life in Hurricane Andrew

26 direct deaths connected to Hurricane Andrew

Published On: Aug 20 2012 04:37:43 PM EDT   Updated On: Aug 21 2012 12:34:42 PM EDT
MIAMI -

As Hurricane Andrew’s 20th anniversary approaches, we should remember those who lost their lives in that devastating hurricane. 

If we want to prevent similar loss of life in the future, it is instructive to look back at how and where people died.

SPECIAL SECTON: Hurricane Andrew

The National Hurricane Center’s report on Andrew lists 26 direct deaths associated with the hurricane. The direct deaths are those associated directly with the hazards of the hurricane, such as wind, water and tornadoes. Of the 26 direct deaths, three occurred in the Bahamas, 15 in Florida and eight in Louisiana. 

All 15 Florida direct deaths in Andrew occurred in Miami-Dade County. The direct loss of life included six in their homes when roofs and/or walls collapsed; two who unsuccessfully tried to ride it out on a boat; one drowning in a canal; two in mobile homes; one person in a truck crushed by a downed tree; one killed when hit by debris while trying to seek shelter; and, two who were thrown from a storage trailer where they had sought shelter.

Some of those direct deaths occurred when people thought they had done everything they were supposed to do, including putting up hurricane shutters and preparing their supplies. Stronger buildings should prevent most of that from happening in the future -- at least those homes built to the new building code.

But there were also dozens of indirect deaths related to Andrew.  The indirect deaths reported by The Miami Herald in January 1993 included carbon monoxide poisoning from improper use of generators, fire (including two children who died in a house fire caused by a candle that was used because electricity was out after the storm), electrocutions, lightning (a volunteer was struck and killed by lightning while he was helping a helicopter crew unload food for storm survivors), traffic accidents (at least eight of these deaths occurred where stop signs had been knocked down by Andrew’s winds or traffic lights were inoperable due to power outages), five suicides, four killed by others, heart attacks, and falling off a balcony while checking for damage.

We will never know the total indirect death loss associated with Andrew.  However, many of those deaths could have been prevented by using greater caution.  Andrew is one of many examples indicating that the loss of life can continue well after the hurricane.