Thirty years ago this week, Hurricane Andrew made landfall in South Miami-Dade County (then known as Dade County) on August 24, 1992 as one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in U.S. history. When it did so, Andrew was a Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 165 mph and a minimum central pressure of 922 millibars. It’s one of only four hurricanes to make landfall in the United States as a Category 5 since 1900 (the others being the 1935 Florida Keys Labor Day storm, Hurricane Camille in 1969, and Hurricane Michael in 2018).
The storm then moved over the Gulf of Mexico and made a second landfall near Point Chevreuil, Louisiana, on August 26, 1992 as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 115 mph and a central pressure of 956 millibars.
In all, Hurricane Andrew destroyed more than 50,000 homes and caused an estimated $26 billion in damage, making it at the time the most expensive natural disaster in United States history, not to be surpassed until Hurricane Katrina 13 years later. By the time it finally dissipated, Andrew was also responsible for 23 direct deaths.
Despite the devastation that this storm wrought, it also spurred dramatic advancements that have enabled hurricane experts and forecasters to better plan for, predict, and respond to hurricanes.
According to NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, NOAA has drastically improved its track and intensity forecasts, increasing track accuracy by 75% and intensity forecasts by 50% since Hurricane Andrew. NOAA scientists now use an array of satellite information, land-based, sea-based, and aircraft-related instruments to collect observational data.
Additionally, the instruments onboard NOAA satellites continue to improve with each generation. Data collected by the JPSS polar-orbiting satellites contribute to weather prediction models consisting of atmospheric temperature and water vapor information that help predict the intensity and location of severe weather several days in advance.
The geostationary satellites GOES East and GOES West have a near-real-time view of the Western Hemisphere and an array of instruments that monitor environmental conditions from above, which improve the ability to observe quickly evolving changes in the storm. The Advanced Baseline Imager onboard the satellites monitor environmental conditions that can identify storms as they develop and the cloud features within them.