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Twenty years later, lessons from Hurricane Andrew

Nancy Marshall-Genzer May 18, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: Now to Florida where emergency officials and weather forecasters have been meeting this week for the Governor’s annual Hurricane Conference. This year’s meeting comes exactly 20 years after Hurricane Andrew caused $26 billion in damage in South Florida.

Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall-Genzer reports.

Nancy Marshall-Genzer: Hurricane Andrew morphed into a monster overnight, buzz-sawing through south Florida. Frantic meteorologists waited impatiently for slow-as-molasses printers to spit out smudged hurricane maps.

But things have changed.

Mark Merritt: It has come so far.

Mark Merritt worked at FEMA in the ‘90s and is now president of Witt Associates. He says today’s computerized hurricane predictions are much better. So local officials are ordering more mandatory evacuations.

Merritt: They’re not making these calls based on a gut feeling.  They have very good information and they can defend that decision.

Businesses have also changed their approach. Gerry Galloway was a brigadier general in the Army Corps of Engineers when Andrew hit. He says companies used to just protect buildings. Now, they also worry about their workers. Because:

Gerry Galloway: You can repair the plant but if the people have nowhere to live and it’s 50 miles to the next big community — they are thinking of what we need to do, what temporary housing do we need to bring in.

Those plans could be put to the test soon. Hurricane season starts June 1.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall-Genzer for Marketplace.

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