25 Years After Hurricane Andrew, Homestead, Fla., Prepares For Irma It's been 25 years since Hurricane Andrew devastated Homestead, Fla. NPR's Robert Siegel talks with Mayor Jeff Porter about what the town has learned and how it is preparing for Hurricane Irma.

25 Years After Hurricane Andrew, Homestead, Fla., Prepares For Irma

25 Years After Hurricane Andrew, Homestead, Fla., Prepares For Irma

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It's been 25 years since Hurricane Andrew devastated Homestead, Fla. NPR's Robert Siegel talks with Mayor Jeff Porter about what the town has learned and how it is preparing for Hurricane Irma.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Homestead, Fla., knows what the Caribbean is enduring right now. The Miami suburb was flattened by Hurricane Andrew 25 years ago. And as Irma bears down on South Florida, the town of 60,000 is preparing for the worst again. Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter joins us now. Welcome to the program.

JEFF PORTER: Thank you, Sir.

SIEGEL: And how are things in Homestead?

PORTER: You know, it's - the weather's fair now. It's a nice day - gives us a chance for everybody to finish doing their personal preparations and stuff in order and get ready for a couple days of bad weather.

SIEGEL: Your town was devastated by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. What did Homestead learn from that disaster? What did you learn from that disaster to help you prepare for Irma this time?

PORTER: Well, you know, I mean since Andrew, obviously the state has done a better job of building code. You know, we've hardened our structures. You know, we also have, you know, gone out and built new buildings to house government that are, you know, rated at Category 5, which will let us sustain ourselves and government so that we can be there when it's time to switch into the recovery mode of whatever happens - hopefully not too devastating.

SIEGEL: Yeah.

PORTER: But it lets us take care of our employees and put them in a safe place while we, you know, manage the storm itself. And it gives us a place to operate out of as well.

SIEGEL: You know, you mentioned you've built for Category 5. People are saying Irma's a Category 5 just 'cause there is no six. The category doesn't exist. Are you confident that what's been built in the years since Andrew could withstand the kind of winds we're hearing reported with this hurricane?

PORTER: You know, I'm - I can't say honestly. This storm, you know - it's bad, and it's big. And it has similarities of - the barometric pressure, the - are very, very low. The millibars of pressure are scary low, which is what we dealt with with Andrew. So I'm more confident today with what we have in the structures and the way things have been done over the last few years.

All in all, I think everybody is a little bit more prepared and more aware because for the last 10 or 12 days, we've been hearing nothing but devastation in Texas. People started preparing earlier and doing a better job of monitoring where this thing was going and what the impact could be. So I think overall, the people in South Florida have done a really good job of getting ready as best they can.

SIEGEL: Is Homestead emptying out at this point? I mean is it obvious if you're there?

PORTER: No.

SIEGEL: No.

PORTER: No, it's not emptying out. There are some family members that have left, and some of our seniors have left. But no, it's not a desolate town. And you know, Homestead's a tough little city, you know? As you can imagine, this could be a big event for us. We went through Andrew and survived and have come back better, stronger. And I think the resolve is there, and I think we'll do the same thing with whatever this storm brings.

SIEGEL: Well, Mayor Porter, good luck to you. We're thinking of you and your fellow residents of Homestead, Fla.

PORTER: Well, thank you, Sir. I appreciate the call. And keep us in your prayers.

SIEGEL: OK. That's Mayor Jeff Porter speaking to us from Homestead.

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