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Storm Refugees: Change of scenery for many

By JIM ROSS, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 20, 2002


Norb Bush enjoyed living in South Florida. There were plenty of clubs where the rock drummer could jam, his friends lived nearby, and he loved the Dolphins and the University of Miami Hurricanes.

Norb Bush enjoyed living in South Florida. There were plenty of clubs where the rock drummer could jam, his friends lived nearby, and he loved the Dolphins and the University of Miami Hurricanes.

But Bush left it all behind in September 1992 and headed north to Citrus County, best known for its retirees and manatees. The nightlife is limited, and football fans prefer the Bucs and the Gators.

But it has one distinct advantage: It's a long way from where Hurricane Andrew blew through his life.

Ten years later, Bush has mixed feelings about the move.

"I like the area and the people are nice and everything," said Bush, who lives in Floral City, a small town in southeast Citrus. "For me, musically, there's really not a lot."

Andrew spawned an exodus from south Miami-Dade. Some people didn't wander far: Broward County's population boomed 29.3 percent during the 1990s, partly because it absorbed so many of its southern neighbors after Andrew.

Others moved out of state, while some -- it's unclear how many -- made their way to Citrus.

Those who left were soon replaced by people with no memories of the devastation.

The house Bush was renting in Homestead was severely damaged and he didn't have insurance. Bush couldn't afford the high rents landlords charged after Andrew. But he did get a $1,500 federal relocation grant.

Bush visited friends in Citrus, who told him of the affordable housing options. He was caring for his father, who had Parkinson's disease, and needed to move someplace quickly.

"I do miss playing (drums) all the time, but I don't miss the crime that comes with living in or near a big city," Bush said.

Others who made the move have deeper regrets.

"I really liked living there," Betty Hamley, 73, said of the Homestead mobile home park where she and her husband, John, lived. After their mobile home was destroyed, they had insurance money and felt a need to get away.

She and her husband chose Inverness because their son, Michael, lived there. "I wanted to move away from the coastline," Mrs. Hamley said.

She got her wish, but in most other respects her new life is not as pleasant. "I had a lot of friends in Homestead, because in the park everyone knew everyone," she said. "I find here it's very hard to make friends."

Things couldn't have turned out any differently for Jane Boone, 45. "It's definitely been a good move," said Boone, 45, who moved to Inverness.

When Andrew hit, Boone was a single mother raising four sons, ages 2 to 14. Her divorce was pending. Her father, who lived nearby, was dying. She had just lost her teaching job and undergone surgery to repair damaged vocal cords when Andrew damaged her southwest Miami home.

It wasn't so much the damage that prompted her to leave. "I really remember thinking of that storm as God's last message to me to shake me up and say, "You need to kind of change direction.' "

Her mother and some other relatives already lived in Inverness. Boone took her youngest son, Paul Rodriguez, while the other boys chose to stay in South Florida.

"Several people said, "You are going to have a culture shock,' " said Boone, a licensed massage therapist. "I think what Inverness did was bring out the country girl in me.

"I moved here to find peace of mind, to rebalance my life and just to feed my spirt," said Boone. "And boy, it did that."

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