One of the most destructive United States hurricanes of record started modestly as a tropical wave that emerged from the west coast of Africa on August 14. The wave spawned a tropical depression on August 16, which became Tropical Storm Andrew the next day. Further development was slow, as the west-northwestward moving Andrew encountered an unfavorable upper-level trough. Indeed, the storm almost dissipated on August 20 due to vertical wind shear. By August 21, Andrew was midway between Bermuda and Puerto Rico and turning westward into a more favorable environment. Rapid strengthening occurred, with Andrew reaching hurricane strength on the 22nd and Category 4 status on the 23rd. After briefly weakening over the Bahamas, Andrew regained Category 4 status as it blasted its way across south Florida on August 24. The hurricane continued westward into the Gulf of Mexico where it gradually turned northward. This motion brought Andrew to the central Louisiana coast on August 26 as a Category 3 hurricane. Andrew then turned northeastward, eventually merging with a frontal system over the Mid-Atlantic states on August 28.
Reports from private barometers helped establish that Andrew’s central pressure at landfall in Homestead, Florida was 27.23 inches, which makes it the third most intense hurricane of record to hit the United States. Andrew’s peak winds in south Florida were not directly measured due to destruction of the measuring instruments. An automated station at Fowey Rocks reported 142 mph sustained winds with gusts to 169 mph (measured 144 ft above the ground), and higher values may have occurred after the station was damaged and stopped reporting. The National Hurricane Center had a peak gust of 164 mph (measured 130 ft above the ground), while a 177 mph gust was measured at a private home. Additionally, Berwick, LA reported 96 mph sustained winds with gusts to 120 mph.
Andrew produced a 17 ft storm surge near the landfall point in Florida, while storm tides of at least 8 ft inundated portions of the Louisiana coast. Andrew also produced a killer tornado in southeastern Louisiana.
Andrew is responsible for 23 deaths in the United States and three more in the Bahamas. The hurricane caused $26.5 billion in damage in the United States, of which $1 billion occurred in Louisiana and the rest in south Florida. The vast majority of the damage in Florida was due to the winds. Damage in the Bahamas was estimated at $250 million.
Source: NOAA Hurricanes in History