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Mayors Reflect on Hurricane Andrew

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Posted: Friday, August 25, 2017 1:45 am

   Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace and Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter both stayed locally through Hurricane Andrew in August of 1992. 

   “The old City Hall blew apart,” Mayor Wallace said.  “The doors blew off and you could see outside.  It was like that scene in Wizard of Oz with things flying all around.” 

   Mayor Porter stayed with his in-laws through the storm.   

   “Nick (Sincore) was on Council at the time,” he said.  “Cindy and I stayed in a guest room bathroom.  The vortex of the storm going over sucked the water out of the tub.” 

   ”When it got quiet, Nick and I went out as we weren’t boarded up, and saw the mess in the flashlights beam,” Mayor Porter continued.  “Then you could hear the eye wall wind coming back and destruction with it.”

   Mayor Wallace said they expected a heavy storm headed to Broward County.  “It turned at the last and we took a direct hit,” he said. 

   “I talked to my Mom – this wasn’t like other storms,” Mayor Wallace added.

   “The last hurricane had been about thirty years before so folks had no experience,” said Mayor Porter.  “The old storms sat on us like twenty hours, saturated the ground and the trees blew down.  Andrew was totally different – it had tornadoes.”

   “It was a terrible experience,” said Mayor Wallace.  “You could only think to stay safe, moving from room to room as the building came apart.”

   “I’ve never been to war but I can imagine it,” said Mayor Porter.  “The

military helicopters and military trucks afterwards and the terrible smells from decomposing refrigerators and dead animals were very bad.”

   “Our problem was unique as people didn’t know about Florida City,” said Mayor Wallace.  “The media talked about Homestead – the big city – and even my relatives called to help them.”

   “Homestead had plenty of water but we were out,” he continued.  “I was at a distribution center when a truck pulled in asking for Homestead.  I said, ‘Follow me’ and led him to Florida City.  I later told (Homestead Mayor) Tad DeMilly about it and sent him water.”

   When asked about communications, Mayor Wallace said, “I did have a bulky cellphone, the old kind in a Velcro bag around my neck, with the buttons on the back.  We put up our own antennae at City Hall but it only worked in the city.”   

   “There was a centralized effort by the military and the Red Cross to help,’ Mayor Porter concluded.  “But there was no infra-structure, no way to keep or

distribute supplies.”

   “By 1995, we were a new city, with a new city hall,” said Mayor Wallace.  “There was a turnover in population.  Many people took their insurance and relocated elsewhere – they thought temporarily.  New people came in and things really changed.”

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