This article courtesy of Miami New Times.

By Chuck Strouse

Hours after Hurricane Andrew leveled Miami 20 years ago this Friday, the farmland of South Dade's Redland was desolate. No one for miles. No running water. Little electrical power. Few phones.

I slalomed my rusty Chevy pickup down a strip of black asphalt littered with shingles and downed trees. Then, in the middle of the road, there was a washing machine. It had been plucked from a home far away and dropped there whole. I steered to miss it, and my truck suddenly jerked from 30 mph to a dead stop. Bang. I would have been dog meat if it weren't for the seat belt. No cell phones back then. No way to call for help.

I flopped out to find a power line thick as a wrist jammed in the suspension. I stripped off my shirt as insulation, wrapped it around a metal wrench, and touched the cable. No juice. Then I lay down, scorched my back on the pavement, and began tugging. It didn't move. Not a hair.

So I grabbed a tiny pair of pliers and began snipping, one strand at a time. Three hours and a gallon of sweat later, I started her up and hurried to a trailer in Homestead. I was a Miami Herald reporter then, and I typed out the story, barely making deadline on an interview with a guy who had escaped a home that Andrew blew away and then found temporary refuge in another, also demolished by the worst wind.

Amid this week's remembrances of the storm that cost the United States more than $25 billion, claimed 26 lives, and left more than 250,000 people homeless, little has been said of the reporters who covered it. The Herald, then a much larger paper, won a Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for its journalists' coverage.

That storm shaped how the media covered Katrina, 9/11, this year's drought, and myriad other disasters. So I asked some former Herald reporters for their memories.

Ana Menendez (then a Broward reporter, now an author of two novels and two short-story collections): Two days before the storm, I was on rotation in the Hollywood bureau. I had been scheduled to cover some firefighter event, but the editor on duty said, with a trace of contempt, that the Sun-Sentinel had made a big deal about some storm out there, so I should probably head over to Publix instead and see if people were stocking up. At the store, no one I interviewed knew anything about an impending hurricane. Finally, I ran into an elderly man with a shopping cart full of water and canned goods. He knew all about Andrew, was tracking the coordinates, and was taking no chances. Soon we were all going to become that elderly fellow. We just didn't know it.

Marty Merzer (then a senior writer, now a North Florida freelancer and grandpa): As an intensifying Andrew approached, I was tapping away like crazy about the first hurricane to threaten South Florida in decades, when assistant managing editor Ileana Oroza walked by. She stopped for a second, smiled impishly, and said, "As you write, don't even think about the fact that you're writing the story that every Herald reporter has waited to write for the last 30 years."

Marie Dillon (then an assistant state editor, now a Chicago Tribune editorial writer): As the storm approached the Herald building, we couldn't stop ourselves from watching out the windows over the bay, even though everyone kept telling everyone else to stand back from the glass. The water was sometimes churning up so high it washed over the bridge. Once in a while, a lone car would come flying over the bridge, carrying a driver who, I assume, had decided not to try to ride it out on the island after all.

Later, as I settled in on the state desk, I looked across at my boss, John Pancake, and said, "Is this building hurricane-safe?"

He gave me his wry little smile and said, "We don't know."

Lizette Alvarez (then a reporter, now a New York Times Miami bureau chief) and Don Van Natta (then a reporter, now a senior reporter for ESPN the Magazine and Lizette's husband): When Hurricane Andrew hit the coast, we thought the storm had bypassed us altogether. We were at the Comfort Inn in Florida City, one of several cities randomly chosen by editors who hoped to have reporters on the ground when the storm hit. From our rooms, we heard a stream of radio reports of people describing vicious, house-rattling winds from their bathrooms and closets. Every five minutes or so, we would open our motel door, walk out, and feel nothing but stillness and disappointment.

Just as we settled in for a night of boredom, Andrew spun our way, launching us on a game of hide-and-seek that would last all night. The winds hit the Comfort Inn so abruptly we were forced to dash from room to room as the roof flipped off in chunks. We met up with a dozen or so tourists during this race to outrun the motel's demolition. The hotel manager saved all our lives by warning us that the winds would shift after the eye of the storm and we should head for the intact rooms facing north.

Then, at the tail end of the storm, a group of us was trapped in one room. The air pressure outside wouldn't let us open the door. The roof rattled, and the walls started to buckle. We dragged a mattress to the bathroom and tried to shield our heads. One woman started crying. A couple of us kept racing to the door to force it open, but it wouldn't budge. I stepped into the bathtub with several others and we started to pray.

Don and another man pushed up on the bathroom roof with all their brawn. The roof lifted and slammed back down. It did it again and again. The howls were so deafening it was hard to stay calm.

Somebody ran to the door again — and this time it finally opened. By the time we rushed out of the room, it was cracking open.

We waited out the storm a few more hours and then found a German tourist, terrified but unscathed, under a mattress in a room that had been torn to shreds. When the sun finally peeped over the horizon, we stood on an untouched slice of balcony and looked out. Florida City was unrecognizable.

Joe Tanfani (then a reporter, now a Los Angeles Times Washington bureau reporter): I was considered a tiny, dwarfish talent and pretty much stuck in the office after the first day. One thing they had me doing was trying to track down the estimable Dade County mayor, Steve Clark. I wrote this story that pretty much said he was missing in action, and some time later, he chewed me out: "You know what I was doing? I was trying to get the water turned on at the Herald building!"

Ileana Oroza (then an assistant managing editor, now a University of Miami instructor): I spent the night on the floor in my office, and my visiting nephew was with me. I had just managed to fall asleep around 3 or 4 a.m. when the phone rang. It was a journalist from Israel wanting a report on the hurricane. After the storm, we gathered around the copy desk to plan our next move. It was about 8 a.m. when the phone rang. One of the editors answered, and after a few seconds, said in a pleading voice: "Sir, we just had a hurricane." The caller was an annoyed reader asking why his newspaper hadn't been delivered.

Andrew Innerarity (then a staff photographer, now a freelancer): When the storm hit, I was on a three-month leave of absence to backpack Europe. I came back a week after the storm with no idea how serious the whole thing was. The flight from London to MIA landed at night, and on approach, I'll never forget seeing a huge line of emergency vehicles, lights flashing someplace in Southwest Dade.

Once back at work in early September, I headed to Homestead every day for months. At city hall, the smell from the tons of donated clothing, which had been rained on daily, was unreal. The devastation was so thorough I could hardly recognize anything in the region.

I remember an Airborne soldier telling me how trashed the Air Force base was. He said the devastation was so complete that if the military "had attacked the place, the only thing [it] would have done different was crater the runway."

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    MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 26: A sign in front of a house in the Cutler Ridge area damaged by Hurricane Andrew reads 'We will survive' 26 August 1992. Hurricane Andrew left more than 50,000 people homeless and caused billions of dollars of damage. (Photo credit should read ANDREW ITKOFF/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FILE- In this Sept. 1, 1992 file photo, Janny Vancedarfield sits in front of the debris that was once his house in Florida City, Fla. Vancedarfield lived in this house with six other family members before it was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in September 1992. Two decades later, Homestead and Florida City have doubled in size into a demographically different community, better prepared to deal with hurricanes. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

  • MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 25: A resident (bottom right) looks out of his apartment 25 August 1992 that had its walls blown away by Hurricane Andrew. About 50,000 Dade county residents are without their homes due to Hurricane Andrew, which struck the area 24 August 1992. (Photo credit should read ROBERT SULLIVAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • org/wiki/<span class='searchmatch'>Hurricane</span>_<span class='searchmatch'>Andrew</span> <span class='searchmatch'>Hurricane</span> <span class='searchmatch'>Andrew</span> did extensive damage to homes in Miami, leaving little behind in its wake. died in this <span class='searchmatch'>hurricane</span>. | <b>...</b>

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  • HOMESTEAD, FL - SEPTEMBER 4: Hurricane Andrew victim Sonda Marshall (R) of Homestead, Florida, applies makeup 04 September, 1992. Marshall and her son, Leo (L), were left homeless by the storm and are now living in the Homestead tent city. (Photo credit should read ANDREW ITKOFF/AFP/Getty Images)

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  • HOMESTEAD, FL - AUGUST 25: Susanne Miller (R) and Cheryl Winchester of Homestead clear the rubble from their pet supply store in Homestead, Florida 25 August 1992 as Floridians began cleaning up after Hurricane Andrew. Twelve people were killed by the storm, which left more than 50,000 homeless. (Photo credit should read BOB PEARSON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • HOMESTEAD, FL - AUGUST 25: An unidentified woman grabs goods from the shelves of a convenience store 25 August 1992 as looters continued to rob stores damaged by Hurricane Andrew. Andrew is expected to hit New Orleans later 25 August. (Photo credit should read ANDREW ITKOFF/AFP/Getty Images)

  • MIAMI, UNITED STATES: National Guard troops question Coconut Grove residents who are returning to their homes 24 August 1992 after evacuating to prepare for Hurricane Andrew. The National Guard was called in to prevent looting in areas hit hard by the storm. (Photo credit should read TONY RANZE/AFP/Getty Images)

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  • KENDALL, FL - AUGUST 24: Vidal Martinez holds his head 24 August 1992 while viewing the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in front of what is left of his trailer at the Flowers Trailer Park, Florida. Hurricane Andrew smashed ashore before dawn 24 August devastating southern Florida. (Photo credit should read ANDY ITKOFF/AFP/Getty Images)

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  • MIAMI, UNITED STATES: An unidentified woman jumps across a flooded street in Coconut Grove, Miami, 24 August 1992, in front of a sailboat washed ashore by Hurricane Andrew. Andrew swept across the southern Miami area with 150-mph winds. (Photo credit should read TONY RANZE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • This 1992 family handout photo showsa n apartment complex behind the home of Dante Diaz after Hurricane Andrew hit in Miami. Diaz was growing up in the Miami area when Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992. (AP Photo/Diaz Family)

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  • This Aug. 25, 1992 file photo shows the water tower, a landmark in Florida City, still standing over the ruins of the Florida coastal community that was hit by the force of Hurricane Andrew. Two decades later, Homestead and Florida City have doubled in size into a demographically different community, better prepared to deal with hurricanes. (AP Photo)

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    FILE - This Aug. 25, 1992 file photo shows rows of damaged houses between Homestead and Florida City, Fla. Two decades after Andrew devastated the area, Homestead and Florida City have doubled in size into a demographically different community, better prepared to deal with hurricanes. (AP Photo/Mark Foley, File)

  • Description <span class='searchmatch'>Hurricane</span> <span class='searchmatch'>Andrew</span> - Uneven damage pattern in Lakes by the Bay development The aftermath of <span class='searchmatch'>Hurricane</span> <span class='searchmatch'>Andrew</span> in the Miami area | <b>...</b>

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  • Description <span class='searchmatch'>Hurricane</span> <span class='searchmatch'>Andrew</span> did extensive damage in Miami. | Source http://www. photolibrary. fema. gov/photolibrary/photo_details. <b>...</b>

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  • HOMESTEAD, FL - SEPTEMBER 1: U.S. President George Bush (L) examines a cot, with the help of Eddie Mosqueda, 01 September, 1999 at a tent city for victims of Hurricane Andrew in Homestead, FL. Bush toured military sites and met with local and national officials aiding South Florida hurricane victims. (Photo credit should read J. DAVID AKE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • HOMESTEAD, UNITED STATES: Tents are erected 31 August 1992 to house those who were left homeless by Hurricane Andrew. The tents, which are the first of many to be built by the U.S. Armed Forces, are expected to be ready for occupancy as early as 01 September. (Photo credit should read BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • HOMESTEAD, FL - AUGUST 30: Victims of Hurricane Andrew eat breakfast 30 August 1992 in front of a military mobile kitchen in Homestead, FL. The military is providing victims of the hurricane with three hot meals a day. (Photo credit should read ROBERT SULLIVAN/AFP/Getty Images)