(KLFY) — On Aug. 14, 1992, meteorologists first reported a tropical disturbance off the coast of Western Africa. Within two weeks, that disturbance had become a Category 5 storm named Andrew, and 65 people were left dead in its wake in one of America’s costliest and most dangerous natural disasters ever.
Hurricane Andrew is most famous for the devastation it unleashed on South Florida, especially in Dade County. But the storm had a second life after it crossed into the Gulf of Mexico and made a second landfall at around 1:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 1992, around 24 miles away from Morgan City. Andrew was a Category 3 storm when it struck Louisiana.
Hurricane Andrew by the numbers
- Highest maximum sustained winds: 175 mph (Category 5)
- Maximum sustained winds at first landfall: 165 mph (5th strongest of all time as of 2022)
- Lowest barometric pressure: 922 millibars
- Homes destroyed: 63,500
- Homes damaged: 124,000
- Businesses destroyed or damaged: 82,000
- Total damage estimate: $27.3 billion, not adjusted for inflation
- Killed: 65
- Maximum sustained winds at landfall: 115 mph (Category 3)
- Highest wind gust recorded: 124 mph, Berwick fire station
- Max storm surge: 8 feet, from Lake Borgne to Vermilion Bay
- Homes destroyed: 2,963
- Homes damaged: 23,000
- Number of people evacuated: 1.3 million
- Killed: 17
- Injured: 75
- Parishes named as disaster areas: 37
- Tornados spawned: 14 (11 ranked F1 or above)
- Strongest tornado spawned: F3
- Rainfall estimates: 5 to 12 inches
- Total damage estimate: $1.76 billion, not adjusted for inflation
- Agricultural losses: $289 million, not adjusted for inflation
- Fishing industry losses: $266 million, not adjusted for inflation
- Estimated freshwater fish kill: 187 million fish
- Estimated saltwater fish kill: 9 million
- Oil and gas platforms damaged: 240 for $200 million, not adjusted for inflation.
The story of Andrew in Louisiana
One of the things that kept Hurricane Andrew from being worse than it was when it landed in Louisiana was that it had dragged along the Gulf Coast before landfall. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), continued to weaken as it made landfall and then swept up the Atchafalaya Basin.
By the time it landed, Andrew had done extensive damage to oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, the bodies of six Alabaman crewmen from the fishing vessel Lucky Lee, were found floating in the Gulf five days after the storm. Four more people were rescued from the Gulf after the 65-foot Night Stalker floundered in high seas near Houma.
One of the first and most deadly events of the hurricane was an F3 tornado near Reserve, La., in St. John the Baptist Parish, cutting a nine-mile path. The tornado killed a 2-year-old girl and a 63-year-old man, while injuring another 32 people.
A number of boats and freighters along the Mississippi River were beached or sank. The Mississippi Queen riverboat near Baton Rouge was evacuated, with 250 passengers disembarking because the ship was having difficulty remaining at its berth. The storm stirred up an enormous amount of sediment along the Atchafalaya River, depleting the water of its oxygen and leading to massive fish kills.
The storm also blew roofs off at least five hospitals in three parishes, including St. Mary, Terrebonne and Lafourche. Numerous schools, including locations in Berwick, Jeanerette and New Iberia, among others, lost their roofs while they were acting as evacuations shelters.
Injuries were high in Iberia Parish, where at least two people at Jeanerette High suffered heart attacks during and after the story. While en route to the hospital, one of the heart attack sufferers saw their ambulance trapped by high winds and downed trees. One falling tree injured a firefighter.
As of 2022, remains the seventh most intense storm in the U.S., both in the Pacific and Atlantic. It remains the eighth-costliest storm in the Atlantic and the fifth strongest storm at landfall.