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Riding Out Hurricane Andrew With A Surfboard

Lance Scott O'Brian at HistoryMiami museum in downtown Miami in 2016.

25 years ago when Hurricane Andrew hit Miami, Lance O’Brian and his friend decided to wait out the storm in Miami Beach. Both surfers, they hoped to catch some good waves once the storm had passed.

HistoryMiami museum folklorist Vanessa Navarro spoke with O'Brian as part of a HistoryMiami research project called “What Makes Miami Miami?” The Florida Folklife Program, a component of the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources, directed the project. Below is an edited excerpt of his interview:

During Andrew they evacuated the beach [Miami Beach] but I stayed, and with my friend Oscar we spent the night at my place on West Avenue. At the time I was living on the second floor and they said storm surge would be as high as 20 feet initially. So being on the second floor wasn’t even high enough. Then they lowered it to 10, maybe 12, feet.

Oscar and I couldn’t sleep because the wind was blowing so hard it was rattling the windows. At 3 a.m., we heard a loud crash. One of the back windows had broken in the bedroom. The two buildings to the east of me created a wind tunnel, so the sound was amplified. What happened was a pebble went through one of my windows and it was so incredibly noisy.

We tied one of our surfboard leashes around the door handle because it wouldn’t stay shut tight. We had a battery powered radio and were listening to [meteorologist] Bryan Norcross on the radio. Oscar even called him up.

Bryan said, We got Oscar in Miami Beach. What are you doing in Miami Beach? You’re not supposed to be out there.” We told him we’re on the second floor and that we planned to go surf and jump off the second floor into the water. He called us crazy, so that was funny.

We ended up falling asleep a little bit after it calmed down, probably 5 o’clock in the morning. I think we slept for maybe two hours. I remember being all hot and sweaty and we jumped in the car, grabbed the boat as we went to the beach and it was horrible. There were waves but they were so weak and breaking on the shore. I kept thinking about how I made all these sacrifices for this. I was so bummed.

This story, as told by Lance Scott O'Brian is part of an oral history series called "Miami Stories"- a partnership with HistoryMiami museum.

To read more about Lance's surfing adventures, visit the Miami Herald.

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. Her work involves distributing and amplifying WLRN's journalism on social media, managing WLRN's social accounts, writing and editing newsletters, and leading audience-listening efforts. Reach out via email at klcohen@wlrnnews.org.
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