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Bryan Norcross On Talking South Florida Through Andrew

Peter Andrew Bosch
Miami Herald
Bryan Norcross checks a radar screen while he was still a meteorologist at a Miami station. He’s currently a hurricane specialist at The Weather Channel. ";

If you were living in South Florida back in August  1992 then you'll remember that fateful night when Hurricane Andrew arrived. You’ll also remember the voice of meteorologist Bryan Norcross, the voice that got so many South Floridians through that horrible storm.

This year is the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew. And Norcross has a new book out to commemorate the experience, ‘My Hurricane Andrew Story, the story behind the preparation, the terror, the resilience, and the renowned TV coverage of the great hurricane of 1992.

He shared the most impactful memories about Andrew and what life was like during that fateful night.

My strongest memory is that Wednesday after the storm when I really didn't know what was going to happen. I didn't know if South Florida could recover. It had spiraled into such despair. You had people that hadn't slept in days, people with their guns chasing off looters. It was complete anarchy and nobody seemed to be able to take control. For those who were living here, and I was one of them, it was the fact that we could hear you during the storm. Your voice was a reminder that the world was still there.

Do you ever think about the fact that your voice probably kept us sane? It might have saved lives?

I certainly heard that many times over the years. The fact that we were there and able to continue broadcasting really was a tribute to the management at WTVJ. At that time they had bought into the idea of doing all this hurricane preparation including putting in a dedicated line from the TV studio in downtown Miami to the Y-100 transmitter on the Dade-Broward line.

Have you ever been through something like Hurricane Andrew?

Credit Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Hurricane Andrew front page in 1992

I went through a couple of hurricanes in the 60s up in the Melbourne area where I was living as a teenager, and when I lived in New Jersey I went through some really devastating storms. But really what prepared me for Andrew was that when I came to Miami in 1983, and through the '80s, I spent a lot of time in the history museums working on feature stories on the history of South Florida.

How did the city change after that storm?

First of all it collapsed the insurance system in Miami-Dade County. And Bill Nelson, Sen. Bill Nelson now, was insurance commissioner at the time and he could see that that was just the tip of the iceberg, that the problems that Andrew caused in Dade were going to spread to the state as indeed they did. And we needed some sort of new paradigm to deal with insurance. Also the building codes before Andrew were really quite good, but they were not being enforced.

What is your biggest concern and what do you hope people get from your book – besides a history lesson — about life in a place that is prone to storms?

I hope that people realize that storms can be worse than you can imagine. Now the biggest concern is people who stay near the water, especially people who get stranded. People think about staying in high-rise buildings, but once the storm is over the roads will be covered in sand. So, no ambulances, no police, cars left outside will be ruined; probably no power, no water and likely no communications. So you'll have people stuck in buildings and neighborhoods literally on their own. And if they don't have a transistor radio they won't even know what's going on outside. And how few people have transistor radios today?

You have a lot of people living here in South Florida who have never been through a storm. Some of them want to stick it out. How do you get through to them?

If you don't have some level of preparation for Mother Nature's greatest storm then you're foolish. It's just foolish and it's dangerous.

Bryan Norcross guest curated an exhibition at HistoryMiami marking the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew. The exhibit is tonight (Thursday), and the WLRN-History Miami story booth will be at the museum. We invite you record your story about Hurricane Andrew. The exhibit runs through January.

Luis Hernandez is an award-winning journalist and host whose career spans three decades in cities across the U.S. He’s the host of WLRN’s newest daily talk show, Sundial (Mon-Thu), and the news anchor every afternoon during All Things Considered.