Deaf man describes surviving Hurricane Andrew in 1992
[Transcript] Hurricane Dorian is now a Category 3 and is forecast to turn into a 4 when it strikes Florida on Monday. It is being compared to Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm that struck Florida with 175 mph winds in 1992, killing 65 people and causing over $27 billion in damage.
I want to show you an interview with Andrés ‘Flash’ Otalora, who was seriously injured by the hurricane.
ANDRÉS ‘FLASH’ OTALORA:
I’m a survivor of Hurricane Andrew. It happened on August 24, 1992.
On August 22, it was my father’s 50th birthday celebration. There were some warnings of a hurricane coming but I didn’t fully grasp it.
On August 23 during the evening, that’s when it started getting intense. Inside of the house, I could feel pressure. I had to pop my ears. I’d never experienced that kind of pressure. I felt rattling and you could hear things striking the house. I’m not sure what they were, maybe a garbage can or a tree branch. The TV went black. The telephone lines went out as well. There was no way to call 911 or anything. You were stuck inside of the house.
I felt more and more pressure. I was sleeping on the couch when all of a sudden the roof collapsed. The beam hit my knee, causing it to shift the other way with two bones snapping. The bones were sticking out of the skin.
I was out of it. My father dragged me into the bathroom. Of course, I didn’t feel it as I was more focused on trying to survive. The rainwater was really sharp and burning me. You couldn’t open your eyes because was so painful. The rain was relentless.
It finally stopped about 8 or 9 in the morning. I was bleeding really badly. My father was trying to console me. When I saw my knee, I passed out. I lost a lot of blood. I remember one guy who helped me into his station wagon. It had those wooden sides. I forgot what they were called. I remember the guy picking me up and my leg was just dangling. I was placed in the back of the car. I saw everything outside and it felt like the twilight zone.
Roofs were ripped apart. Military was everywhere. When we got to the hospital, there were so many people and insufficient space for hospital rooms. I had to stay on a bed in the hallway lined up with others. There was no air conditioning because there was no electricity. Everyone was screaming, including myself. I was in a lot of pain. Doctors decided to transfer me to a Fort Lauderdale hospital where there was air conditioning and experienced doctors who could perform the surgery on my leg. It took around nine months to start walking again.
Today, I still think about the hurricane. When I’m sleeping, I do… dream about it sometimes. But I have a good life, I travel, I have a family, a job, my daughter, and my dog. Friends. Life is good. Don’t take things for granted.
If a hurricane was coming, I would evacuate. I don’t want to experience a hurricane again. It’s not something you want to challenge, it’s not an “experience” to be had.
Thank you, Flash, for sharing your story. It is a wake-up call that hurricanes are not something to be taken lightly.
Gallaudet University: [gallaudet.edu]