A perspective on Hurricane Andrew from Max Mayfield

Deering Estate’s Mary Pettit with Local 10’s Max Mayfield.

It’s hard to believe, but Aug. 24 marked the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, a day engrained in the minds of most South Floridians.

No one is more knowledgeable or synonymous with the event than former National Hurricane Center director Max Mayfield, the calm voice and face we saw when the winds outside were anything but. In 2000, he retired from the NHC and is now WPLG Local 10’s hurricane expert. To commemorate the anniversary, Mayfield recently spoke to a packed house of at Deering Estate, a place many believe was hardest hit by Andrew.

“For many years, I and other emergency managers met here to learn how different agencies needed to work together during hurricanes to provide maximum preparation and protection for Floridians,” said Mayfield. “If we don’t remember the past, we are condemned to repeat it.” Thus the reason he hosted an evening to reminisce about the lessons learned from Andrew. For about an hour, Mayfield, in his folksy way, walked us through his days of Andrew.

“Back then, the technology was primitive and we only made three-day predictions; the storm path modeling was not accurate either,” he said.

Mayfield showed a map with the hurricane’s predicted paths; none had it close to hitting any part of Florida.

“We also didn’t project this as a Category 5 hurricane,” he said. “In fact, it took many months to look back at the collected data to finally give it that designation.

I was on the evening shift at the National Hurricane Center (then located on US 1 in Coral Gables across from the University of Miami) when Andrew arrived. Thankfully, our neighbor helped my wife put up our shutters because I was busy at work.”

Mayfield showed the radar loops as Hurricane Andrew came ashore. On one frame, the Northwest quadrant went blank.

Andrew heading into history

“We heard a bang outside and found our radar and satellite antennae shredded the next morning,” he said with a grin and a wink. “The good news that came out of that was that we got the cutting edge DOPPLER radar installed shortly thereafter.”

Mayfield went on to showcase aftermath photos mixed with about a dozen short stories. Each taught a lesson of how things worked and failed with hurricane planning and recovery.

“Although the storm surge was over 16 feet here at Deering, Hurricane Andrew was not the big one. Thankfully, this did not hit Miami Beach, downtown Miami, or the airport.”

Mayfield showed a picture of a neardemolished house, and the next photo showed what remained of the kitchen. A wall phone remained attached to a battered wall.

“Believe it or not, that phone still worked,” said Mayfield. “When people arrived, they found the woman homeowner alive and tried calling 911, but they only got a busy signal. She died a few hours later.”

He showed an aerial photo of two developments in an area east of Countrywalk; one was devastated, while the other showed almost undamaged roofs.

“This is Munne Estates and this builder cared and did something right,” said Mayfield, adding that the relatively minor damage to the homes was a result of solid construction practices.

Thankfully, building requirements have become a lot more stringent since 1992 as lawmakers incorporated the lessons learned from Andrew. The good news, Mayfield reports, is that our communication technology, hurricane forecasting, building codes and emergency teams are all vastly superior today. The bad news is with all of today’s hustle and bustle, people tend to forget what they need to be doing.

“Our memories are so short,” said Mayfield. “It had been 27 years between Betsy and Andrew. Now I can sense that memory lapse happening again. History is a pretty good teacher and it teaches us that we need to have a plan, no matter what the seasonal forecasts are. It only takes one (storm) and it’s far better to be prepared and stand down than the alternative.”

You can see highlights of Max Mayfield’s speech at http://ow.ly/d5KXj

HAL’S HOMEOWNER HELP When considering interior home renovations for resale value, think neutrals. Painting walls with whites, creams and grays invites others to picture their belongings in your home. The same holds true for flooring, window treatments and tile. Lighter hues also make rooms feel bigger and more inviting.

SEND ME AN EMAIL I’m always looking for interesting people and events for consideration in upcoming issues. Contact me with your ideas at  www.MiamiHal.com  , Hal@MiamiHal.com or www.facebook.com/MiamiHal

Hal Feldman is a Realtor with RE/MAX Advance Realty. He is always available for any real estate questions you may have. On Sundays, from 10 a.m.-Noon, he is outside Wagons West in the Suniland Shopping Center to talk real estate.

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