Location: South Florida
Date: August 1992
Intensity at landfall: Category Five
Damage: 25 billion dollars (1992 dollars)
This small and powerful hurricane is the most expensive natural disaster ever to hit the United States. Thanks to accurate forecasts and an intense public-awareness push, though, the storm claimed only 43 lives.
Meteorologists at the U.S. National Hurricane Center kept a close eye on the storm from its beginnings on August 14. It became a tropical storm on August 17 and was dubbed Andrew.
As Andrew bore down on South Florida, officials ordered massive evacuations. About 55,000 people left the Florida Keys, and another 517,000 people in Dade County were told to leave.
On August 24, the hurricane slammed into southern Dade County with winds topping 165 miles (266 kilometers) an hour. Unusually, wind, not storm surge or rain, was the most destructive force. Only about 7 inches (18 centimeters) of rain fell on the state.
Violent winds destroyed more than 25,000 houses and damaged more than 100,000 others. More than 150,000 people were left homeless, and 86,000 people lost their jobs.
Thousands of cars were totaled. Fifteen thousand boats were destroyed, piled in harbors like dominoes. More than 150 airplanes were mangled beyond repair. In the Everglades, 70,000 acres (28,000 hectares) of native mangrove trees were decimated.
After the storm, shell-shocked Floridians were without power, water, food, or shelter from the broiling sun. The National Guard was called out to control rampant looting, and eventually every branch of the U.S. armed forces was deployed to help clean up and restore order to South Florida.