In the late 1980s and early 1990s, many of my newspaper columns were focused on natural disasters that wiped out entire residential neighborhoods.

First, there was the San Francisco Earthquake in 1989, then the Oakland, Calif., fire in 1991, Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the Los Angeles Northridge Earthquake in 1994.

In the aftermath of the two earthquakes and the fire, I walked the streets of San Francisco, Oakland and Northridge and was personally weighed down by the power of nature, when it turns ugly.

But the worst by all dimensions was the damage from Andrew in South Florida, dubbed at the time a “modern-day apocalypse.” I was overwhelmed by the devastation. With $25 billion in damage, it was the most expensive natural disaster in history. Andrew stormed into Dade County, crushing entire neighborhoods, leaving 250,000 people homeless. A category 4 hurricane, Andrew killed 15 people in Dade County. I will never forget viewing miles of devastation of wiped out neighborhoods.

One of my most distinct memories from the Oakland fire was hearing homes blow up or pop at a pace of two or three a minute when the fire was at its worst. That is exactly what occurred in South Florida when the hurricane winds caused homes literally to blow up.

Back then, I recall often thinking how nothing, next to death, is worse than losing a home. The work building it, saving for it, paying for it and making it a home, all lost in seconds as the habitants sit helplessly nearby.Then came the hard work, haggling with contractors, building offices and insurance companies who sound benevolent in their press releases but often become tight-fisted when it is pay-off time.

Humankind and nature seem to conspire against the victims.


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