Hurricane Andrew was not the ‘Big One’ — Max Mayfield

Learn from the past and prepare for the future! That’s the theme of a special evening hosted by the Deering Estate Foundation featuring Max Mayfield, the former director of the National Hurricane Center and now a hurricane specialist with television station WPLG-TV.

On Thursday, Aug. 16, at 7 p.m., Mayfield will present dramatic slides of the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in the Stone House Ballroom at the historic Deering Estate at Cutler. Mayfield’s distinguished career in meteorology has earned him five Emmy Awards including two during 2011 for the station’s Hurricane Special and Hurricane History program. Now, the evening at the Estate offers a chance to meet and learn from one of the country’s leading hurricane specialists.

The Deering Estate at Cutler was near ground zero for Hurricane Andrew, and following the storm Mayfield describes coming to the property to assess the damage.

“We couldn’t get the main gate open because of the debris that had been pushed up to the rock wall.”

Once inside the gate and on the grounds, the team searched for markers of the storm surge that were later measured at 16.5 feet. “We went inside the ballroom and although there was debris on the walls, there were no marks indicating a storm surge,” said Mayfield. “We realized that the strong winds had sand blasted the walls.”

The group later found water-level markers inside a closet that had been protected from the strong winds.

Mayfield says Hurricane Andrew was primarily a wind event, a small Category 5 storm, that didn’t extend far from the center like Hurricanes Katrina and Hugo. Had the scope been more extensive, Andrew’s storm surge would have been worse. “Hurricane Andrew was not the big one,” said Mayfield.

For those who lived through the storm and for the others who have never been through a similar event, the evening provides an opportunity to be reminded of and understand the magnitude of a hurricane. “It is easier to plan for a catastrophe and then scale back as needed,” said FEMA administrator Craig Fugate.

The evening is designed to reflect and remember the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, and educate our community on what to do in case of an impending storm.

“Have a plan,” said Mayfield. “The best efforts of the meteorologist aren’t enough; it comes down to people having a hurricane plan and being able to execute that plan.”

Nature is resilient and to see the magnificent Deering Estate at Cutler today, one would never believe the extent of the damages it had suffered. Over the last 20 years, the innovative environmental stewardship programs created by the Estates’ educational and interpretative staff have complimented the lush natural growth. The goal of these nature-based programs is to raise awareness and to protect and preserve our precious resources for this and future generations.

One of the most successful programs is a partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools that pairs Nature-Center-to- School for hands-on learning and educational enrichment. NESTT (Nurturing Environmental Stewards of Today and Tomorrow) is an extension of the estate’s award-winning Living Classroom/Eco- Academy.

The Deering Estate at Cutler is located at 16701 SW 72 Ave. The program will be held in the historic Stone House Ballroom and is free to foundation members and $15 for non-members. The admission may be applied toward the purchase of a Foundation Membership. All proceeds benefit NESTT.

For more information, call Ashley Sodeman at 305-235-1668, ext. 263.

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