Hurricane Andrew: 20 years later, one family's story

11:40 AM, Jun 1, 2012   |    comments
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Homestead, Florida -- It may seem hard to believe, but it's been 20 years since Hurricane Andrew slammed into South Florida.  It was a category five storm that killed 44 people and destroyed more than 125,000 homes.

"It was like it wasn't real, it couldn't be happening to us," remembers Phyllis Green.  She and her family were living in Homestead when the storm hit.  They ran to a closet and Green's husband Randy grabbed a mattress to protect her and her two children.

"He got pinned actually in the door frame with the mattress because the wind was blowing. He finally broke loose, came in there, put the mattress over us and were looking at each other say, 'Oh my God, what do we do?'" said Green.

As the storm passed through, the roof came off, debris flew everywhere and the house was destroyed.

"When we saw the damage, it was incredible.  We cried and cried and cried and walked around like zombies."

Beyond the property destruction, surviving after the storm became the main concern.  Food had to be shipped in, along with water.  Then came the looters.

"And the police said, shoot 'em.  They said we cannot police everything," said Green.

Ten days after the storm, Green and her family moved to Tampa and they never moved back.

But Ellen Prather eventually moved into the house where the Greens were living before Andrew.

"We visited here shortly after the storm," says Prather.  "And it was hard to believe you were in the area before and had seen what we were seeing at that time."

Phyllis Green says anyone who hasn't been through a storm like Andrew can't appreciate the danger.

"I think people are very relaxed about it--having never been through it.  We were, too."

But not anymore.  When storms are heading for Tampa Bay, Green and her family prepare.  She knows from experience everyone else should as well.