After the storm: Hurricane Andrew ten years later

St. Petersburg Times

August 18: The storm
Hurricane Andrew touched the lives of thousands of people in South Florida. A tiny cul-de-sac is a microcosm of the storm's impact.

The biggest natural disaster in U.S. history touched every homeowner in Florida when insurance companies scrambled to cover losses. Ten 10 years later, the effects can still be felt.

August 19: Building
Andrew did more than devastate South Florida: It exposed dangerous shortcomings in construction and inspection. It took 10 years, but a new statewide building code is finally in place. Some builders, however, say they already have put Andrew's lessons to work.

Protecting your home
What to do to make your house safer during a hurricane.

Interactive look at Florida's building code
(For a non-Flash version of the graphic, click here)

August 20: Whatever happened to...
Kate Hale
, who with 10 words -- "Where in the hell is the cavalry on this one?'' -- became an instant folk hero and prompted a complete revamping of the federal government's emergency management agency. Find out what Hale has been up to since then.

And how about the others? The TV weatherman who reassured shaky South Florida? And the shotgun-toting homeowner seen around the country? And Homestead Air Force Base?

August 24: The 1921 Storm
Tampa Bay
hasn't been hit by a hurricane for 81 years. The 1921 unnamed hurricane caused millions of dollars of damage, but what would happen today if a similar storm hit the bay area?

Hurricane Animation

Related Links
2002 Official Hurricane Guide
You will need the free QuickTime Player from Apple to play the video.
[Animation: NOAA]
This animated graphic, produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center in Miami, shows potential flooding by a Category 4 Hurricane hitting Tarpon Springs from the south.

Bay would fuel storm’s devastation

© St. Petersburg Times
published August 24, 2002

It's the worst-case scenario: a powerful storm on a northeast track heading straight for Tampa Bay.

What would happen?

That's the question emergency planners posed to the National Hurricane Center. The computer-generated image you're looking at is one answer.

It shows the potential flooding from a storm about the size of Hurricane Floyd, which ravaged the North Carolina coast in September 1999, killing 57 people. It was bigger, deadlier and almost as fierce as Hurricane Andrew, but not as costly.

It follows the same track as the unnamed hurricane that hit Tarpon Springs in 1921, the last time Tampa Bay took a direct hit from a hurricane.

Under this scenario, high winds create a storm surge causing massive flooding, particularly in Hillsborough County, where nearly the entire Interbay Peninsula would be underwater.

That may seem odd. Aren't the Pinellas beaches more vulnerable? The reason lies in the track of the storm, the counter-clockwise rotation of the winds, the shallowness of the Gulf of Mexico and the bay itself.

Hurricane experts call it the funnel effect.

The shallowness of the gulf makes Florida's west coast particularly vulnerable to hurricane-driven storm surge, said Brian Jarvinen, hurricane storm surge specialist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

In Atlantic storms, a lot of the energy produced by a hurricane is absorbed by the ocean. But in a gulf storm, the energy hits bottom, churning water toward the shoreline, Jarvinen said. That creates an even bigger problem if the storm is headed toward Tampa Bay.

"The added impact of the bay creates a funneling effect," Jarvinen said. The churning water surges into the bay, washing over the farthest point.

A computer model Jarvinen created shows flooding up to 17 feet above sea level in parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough.

"Certainly the impacts there are incredible, there's no doubt about it," said Jarvinen. "There's no doubt in our mind that someday we will see a storm like this and create that type of flooding. The question is when, but someday it will occur."


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