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Hurricane Andrew, 25 Years Later: Paying $40 For Water

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Twenty-five years ago, Hurricane Andrew hurtled through South Florida. The Category 5 storm uprooted trees, washed boats ashore and destroyed thousands of homes. It caused an estimated $25 billion in damage.

But the hurricane didn't scare Kendall resident Camille Grace, a 47-year-old who worked in sales for Cayman Airways and taught night school. She put her storm shutters up and filled her two bath tubs with water in case she lost access to the precious liquid during the storm. 

Grace lived off Kendall Drive and Southwest 134th Ct. It wasn't until after the eye of the storm passed, that her biggest problem became apparent: She had no water in the tubs. 

The force of the winds had uprooted her black olive trees, whose roots were wrapped around her water pipes. When the trees fell, the pipes were torn out. The water she’d stored before the storm quickly drained out.

Grace shared her story with Miami Stories -- a partnership between WLRN and the HistoryMiami Museum - during opening night of the museum’s exhibit: Hurricane Andrew: 25 years later. The following is an edited excerpt of her conversation with WLRN producer Lisann Ramos:

When we got up in the morning, the poinciana trees had broken in half and the canopies were protecting the back of the house. We had washing machines, refrigerators, lawn chairs, siding all stuck into the canopy. 

The tree in the front yard landed on my friend's car. His car was a BMW, an older one, squished down. 

No Water

We would get up every morning at 4 o’clock and drive north looking for water. We would pay $40 or more for a five-gallon container of water. We’d go out, we’d get two of them, we’d bring ‘em home. And we did that every morning. 

We’d also go out and get ice. And there was a place that opened up that had dry ice. I had a friend that lived on 152nd Street west of the highway and he had diabetes. His house was completely wiped out and they were living between the back wall and the pool where the overhang had kind of collapsed. So we were bringing him ice to keep the insulin cold. 

I'm looking at his house and I say, “Gosh, the inside. I don't remember you painting it green.” It wasn't. It was the chlorophyll from the grass had embedded into all the walls and it looked like the whole house was painted a light green.

I'll never forget it. 

We used to have a lot of trees in that area. And they were all just broken in half and across the road. Shingles went off of the roof. The water pipes had to be put back in.

I was very lucky because I was north of the area where it really, really hit.  

This story, as told by Camille Grace, is part of an oral history series called "Miami Stories" - a partnership with HistoryMiami museum. 

You can hear all the stories we collected and aired on WLRN for the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew here: 

Katie Lepri Cohen is WLRN's engagement editor. She previously covered city government and corruption, environment and the arts at the Miami Herald. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Florida International University.