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Hurricane Andrew was one of the most destructive hurricanes ever to hit the United States of America, raging from August 16 to August 28 of 1992. This tropical cyclone affected the north-western Bahamas, then southern Florida in the greater Miami area, doing much damage, crossing the Florida peninsula and the Gulf of Mexico before again making landfall in south-central Louisiana where it caused further damage. It was the costliest natural disaster to ever strike the United States and produced more than 700,000 insurance claims.
Formation and Track
Andrew started modestly as a tropical wave that emerged from the west coast of Africa on August 14. The wave spawned a tropical depression on August 16 which became Tropical Storm Andrew the next day. Further development was slow, as the west-northwestward moving Andrew encountered an unfavorable upper-level trough. Indeed, the storm almost dissipated on August 20 due to vertical wind shear. By August 21, Andrew was midway between Bermuda and Puerto Rico and turning westward into a more favorable environment. Rapid strengthening occurred, with Andrew reaching hurricane strength (sustained winds greater than 73 mph) on the 22nd and Category Four status on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale on the 23rd. After briefly weakening over the Bahamas, Andrew reached Category Five status as it blasted its way across south Florida on August 24. The hurricane continued westward into the Gulf of Mexico where it gradually turned northward. This motion brought Andrew to the central Louisiana coast on August 26 as a Category Three hurricane. Andrew then turned northeastward, eventually merging with a frontal system over the Mid-Atlantic states on August 28.
Reports from private barometers helped establish that Andrew's central pressure at landfall in Homestead, Florida was 27.23 inches (92.21 kPa), which makes it the third most intense hurricane on record to hit the United States. Andrew's peak winds in south Florida were not directly measured due to destruction of the measuring instruments. An automated station at Fowey Rocks reported 142 mi/h (228 km/h) sustained winds with gusts to 200m/h (272 km/h) (measured 144 ft (43.9 m) above the ground), and higher values may have occurred after the station was damaged and stopped reporting. The National Hurricane Center had a peak gust of 164 mi/h (272 km/h) (measured 130 ft (39.6 m) above the ground), while a 177 mi/h (285 km/h) gust was measured at a private home. In 2002, as part of an ongoing review of historical hurricane records, National Hurricane Center experts concluded that Andrew briefly had sustained winds of 165 mi/h at landfall (Andrew had originally been classified as a Category Four storm at landfall). Additionally, Berwick, Louisiana, reported 96 mi/h (154 km/h) sustained winds with gusts to 120 mi/h (193 km/h).
As with all high intensity storms (categories four and five), the worst damage is thought to have occurred, not from straight line winds but from vortexes or embedded tornadoes. There were thousands of these vortexes in Andrew; many of them could be traced for several miles, as they usually destroyed every building in their paths.
Andrew produced a 17 ft (5.2 m) storm surge near the landfall point in Florida, while storm tides of at least eight ft (2.4 m) inundated portions of the Louisiana coast. Andrew also produced a killer tornado in southeastern Louisiana.
Andrew was responsible for 23 deaths in the United States and three more in the Bahamas. (Undocumented aliens in the U.S. are not included in the official count.) The hurricane caused $26.5 billion in damage in the United States, of which $1 billion occurred in Louisiana and the rest in south Florida. The vast majority of the damage in Florida was due to the winds. Damage in the Bahamas was estimated at $250 million.
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