As the season of severe weather approaches, during this Women’s History Month we offer a female perspective on one of the most destructive storms ever to hit the United States. On August 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew made landfall at Homestead, Florida. With sustained winds reaching 165 m.p.h., the storm achieved rare Category 5 status and caused damage in excess of $26 billion.
A month later, Geraldine Hayes wrote from Homestead to her sister-in-law Mildred Gipson in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky. Living amid the hum of generators, she and husband George were still without power or telephone. For the first time, fatigue had caused her to accept a free meal from the Red Cross of corn beef hash, corn, applesauce, cookies and a drink. Twice a week, she stood in line for hours to collect her mail at a common delivery point. Her house had escaped total destruction, but was still in need of substantial repair and drying out. Nevertheless, Mrs. Hayes had praise for the Red Cross, police, electrical and sanitation workers, and even her insurance company.
And she had not lost her sense of humor. Enclosed with Mrs. Hayes’ letter was a recipe for “Andrew Stew,” a not-so-tasty concoction that summarized the impact of the storm. Combine all the ingredients of a household, it read, with a large dose of water, stir at “200 mph for several hours and serve.” Guaranteed to cause heartburn, this recipe had only one “antidote”: “determination, guts, hard work and lots of money.”