50@50: Hurricane Andrew’s impact on FIU, South Florida

To celebrate the university’s 50th anniversary, FIU News is sharing 50 moments in FIU’s history as part of our “50@50″ series. The video below was produced by FIU for the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew. News clips tell the story of the deadly storm – before, during and after. 

By Joel Delgado ’12 MS ’17 

When Hurricane Andrew made landfall near Homestead shortly after 4 a.m. on Aug. 24, 1992, it marked the beginning of one of the most traumatic and transformative days in South Florida’s history.

With winds reaching 165 miles per hour, every neighborhood in the region felt Andrew’s devastating effects to some degree – including FIU.

Hurricane Andrew caused $6.3 million worth of damage to buildings and grounds at both University Park Campus (Modesto A. Maidique Campus toady) and North Miami Campus (Biscayne Bay Campus today); damage done to landscaping alone accounted for $1.7 million.

With a total cost of $26.5 billion, mostly in Miami-Dade County, Andrew became the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history at the time. In Florida, the storm was the direct cause of 15 deaths while another 29 people died indirectly. Roughly 160,000 Dade residents were left temporarily homeless.

At University Park Campus, which sustained most of the physical damage from Andrew, the roof of the Golden Panther Arena was torn and led to extensive water damage, destroying the gym’s wood floors; trees were uprooted and littered all over campus; and the framework of the greenhouse was twisted. Every building on campus sustained some damage.

While the North Miami Campus was spared from the worst part of the storm’s wrath, it did not go completely unscathed. The roof of the hospitality management building received the brunt of it, accounting for $100,000 worth of damage.

Despite the physical damage to both campuses, the FIU community almost immediately became involved with the relief efforts. FIU’s student newspaper, The Beacon, reported the Graham Center Ballrooms became a site where volunteers and staff members organized a massive relief effort. More than a quarter of a million pounds of canned foods, baby products and other supplies passed through the ballroom’s dorms in the wake of the storm.


The pictures below were taken at MMC after Hurricane Andrew. Photos appear courtesy of the the FIU Special Collections & University Archives.

In the aftermath of Andrew, the university began looking for ways to ensure South Florida would be prepared should another hurricane of Andrew’s magnitude ever threaten to strike.

Six months after Andrew, FIU hosted dozens of national hurricane experts – including National Hurricane Center Director Bob Sheets – for a major hurricane conference discussing and analyzing lessons learned.

The National Hurricane Center, which had its radar dome and other weather instruments blown out of commission by the storm’s winds at its Coral Gables location, moved into a new hurricane-resistant facility on the southwest side of FIU’s University Park Campus.

In 1996, the Florida Board of Regents created the International Hurricane Research Center at FIU through a public-private partnership between the We Will Rebuild Foundation, which spearheaded efforts to rebuild Dade County after Andrew, and the university.

Some of the Center’s current areas of study involve household mitigation and evacuation; storm hazard and vulnerability mapping; long-term community recovery and economic loss modeling.

Experience America FIU Wall of Wind Jan 2014 pic 9 700x450

The Wall of Wind, unveiled by FIU on the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, is located at the FIU Engineering Center.

In 2012 – exactly 20 years after Andrew made landfall – FIU unveiled the country’s most powerful hurricane simulator, known as the Wall of Wind.

The 12-fan machine is a major research project of the IHRC and generates wind speeds up to 157 miles per hour, allowing researchers, businesses and government agencies to test and analyze the resiliency of their products and services in simulated hurricane conditions.

“This facility in many ways is part of the Andrew legacy,” said Arindam Chowdhury, director of wind engineering research at the IHRC, in the days leading up to the unveiling. “Here we come very close to recreating Andrew in a controlled environment so that we can help mitigate damage in our community and in all those communities in the path of hurricanes in the U.S. and around the world.”