Andrew spares Florida Coast


  • Susan Bush


When geologists heard of the intensity of Hurricane Andrew, which struck the Florida coast on August 25 and then moved on to southern Louisiana, they were expecting the same kinds of coastal damage that Hurricane Hugo brought to the Caribbean and Carolina shores in 1989. Both storms were category 4 hurricanes, having winds of 131–155 mph and surges of 13–18 feet. However, the coastal damage never materialized, leaving geologists to analyze the factors that lessened the impact of the storm. “For minimum coastal damage, you couldn't have designed a better storm,” said Orrin Pilkey, director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) in Durham, N.C. This was due in part to the nature of the storm itself and where it hit land, and in part to the regional geology, said Rob Thieler of PSDS. Despite the huge amounts of damage to buildings, there was virtually no evidence of coastal process destruction, he said.