hurricane andrew, destroyed trailer park

A sign in front of a trailer park destroyed by Hurricane Andrew.

© Najlah Feanny/CORBIS SABA

This powerful Category 5 hurricane walloped South Florida, mainly the area south of Miami, in August 1992. Storm season started quietly that year with minimal activity -- even Andrew was originally considered a "weak" formation when it developed in the Atlantic Ocean -- but ended with a bang. By the time it hit the Bahamas, this first-named storm of the season sent winds whipping at more than 160 mph (257 kph) [sources: Allen, Huffington Post, Rappaport].

In Florida, Andrew demolished scores of homes, exposing what experts later determined was a flimsy and under-enforced housing inspection code. It turned low-lying streets into waterways and killed 15 people. The storm also left drivers to fend for themselves for weeks, as roughly 9,500 traffic signs and signals were destroyed [sources: Allen, Huffington Post, Rappaport].

With damage estimated at $26.5 billion, Andrew was the costliest hurricane in U.S. history for more than a decade. One positive legacy was that the South Florida building code was entirely revamped and now all new homes are required to have storm shutters or impact-resistant glass; roofs have enhanced nail requirements, too [source: Allen].