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Vignettes Along Path of Hurricane Katrina

August 26, 2005

The scene along the path of Hurricane Katrina, which churned ashore late Thursday in southeast Florida.


At a Home Depot in Miami under a steady rain, shoppers pushed carts loaded with aluminum and plywood sheets, cases of water, batteries and other supplies to their vehicles as they prepared for the storm’s arrival.

Vanessa Rodriguez, 35, and her boyfriend were buying an aluminum panel to fit over the door of his home. ``So you won’t get flooding through the door,″ Rodriguez said.

But most shoppers seemed unconcerned, picking through tiles, hoisting sacks of insulation, and going about their normal business.

Richard Polanco, 68, and his wife Cecilia were collecting supplies to build a shower. ``Once you’ve been through (Hurricane) Andrew, you don’t worry about these ladies,″ like Katrina, Polanco said.

``Fifty miles an hour (wind speed)?″ he noted disparagingly.

But Jose Guerrera, 68, also remembered Hurricane Andrew, a 1993 Category 5 storm that virtually destroyed Homestead and Florida City, as he loaded 4-by-8 sheets of plywood onto a metal cart. He and his family huddled in their Coral Gables home as Andrew’s winds ripped the tiles from their roof and they looked up into daylight. He has been boarding up the house during hurricanes ever since.

``I have to protect the doors and windows,″ Guerrera said. His wife, meanwhile, was shopping for water and food. ``That’s her problem. She’s gotta take care of the food. I take care of the work.″

As a precaution, they will fill their bathtub with water, he said. ``If there’s no water, you drink from anywhere.″


Surfers flocked to Miami Beach early Thursday as Katrina approached, looking to ride some waves that come south Florida’s way only when there’s a hurricane or tropical storm on the horizon.

Nearly a hundred surfers floated patiently offshore waiting for the next big swell to come while others were content to catch the smaller surf already being pushed inland by the storm.

``I just got the OK from my wife to surf for another hour,″ said Chris McGrath, a 31-year-old Miami teacher. ``It’s just starting to get fun out there. It’s nice and glassy.″

A Miami native, McGrath estimated he’s surfed these conditions well over 50 times and tries never to miss a storm.

``Down here, (these conditions) are exceptional,″ McGrath said. ``Anywhere else, this is routine. These waves are every day in California. You can’t miss this.

``Until it gets over land and weakens, (the surf) should get better.″


Residents of the low-lying, working class city of Sweetwater were busy Thursday afternoon stacking sandbags in the doorways of their homes, nervously wondering if Hurricane Katrina would bring floods similar to the ones that have inundated their streets and homes in the past.

Sweetwater was one of the areas hardest hit when Hurricane Irene in 1999 left parts of Miami-Dade County under four feet of water. Many residents relived that experience the next year as a tropical system dropped 18 inches of rain on south Florida.

Miami-Dade County commissioner Jose ``Pepe″ Diaz said Thursday that pumps added in recent years, both in neighborhoods and near the Everglades, had helped alleviate the city’s flooding problems. He said the city had provided sandbags for residents in anticipation of some minor flooding.

``At one time, this was all the Everglades,″ Diaz said. ``At times, we’re reminded that it was.″


At Shiver’s BBQ restaurant in Homestead, patrons ate ribs and sandwiches as rain squalls from Katrina lashed the streets outside.

``Everybody is relaxed, laughing. ... They’re dealing with it pretty well,″ restaurant owner Perry Curtis said.

Curtis said wind gusts were heavy at times and people came into his restaurant dripping wet from the rain, but Katrina was nothing compared to Hurricane Andrew, which devastated Homestead 13 years ago.

``In Andrew, we were closed down for a year,″ Curtis said. ``There’s no comparison, because during Andrew, the winds were terrible. The winds are just gusting here.″

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