On Aug. 24, 1992, Miami meteorologist Bryan Norcross was the steady and reassuring voice for thousands of South Floridians during the worst of Hurricane Andrew.
For many, Norcross became a hero that night during his 23 hours on the air and in the following days and months as communities coped and rebuillt in the storm’s aftermath.
For the storm’s 25th anniversary, Norcross, now a part-time hurricane specialist with The Weather Channel, self-published a book titled, “My Hurricane Andrew Story: The story behind the preparation, the terror, the resilience, and the renowned TV coverage of the Great Hurricane of 1992” ($14.99, Bryan Norcross Corp.), about some of his recollections before, during and after the Category 5 storm. The book provides a timeline of the hurricane and detailed how Norcross and his team at what was then WTVJ-Ch. 4 hunkered down in a storage room while providing reports.
He also described how the hurricane changed his life, including the times he received standing ovations at restaurants, airport terminals and during guest appearances on daytime talk shows.
“In any case, it was difficult to know what to do,” he wrote in the book. “I think I said, ‘Thank you. And PLEASE sit down! Everywhere I went, people saw me and cried.”
We recently caught up with Norcross, a Miami Beach resident, at the HistoryMiami Museum, where he curated the 5,000-square-foot exhibit, that is on display through January.
Q: Why did you want to write this book now?
A: I had had it in my mind that I needed to do it. In many ways, the story of Andrew has defined my life because my life changed with Andrew and it became all about hurricanes after Andrew, even though I had studied hurricanes a lot before that. I saw and was part of an incredible event and I knew the story needed to be told.
Q: What do you talk about at your book signings?
A: I generally start with the end of the story: The worst has happened. That’s the lesson of Andrew. We are so used to storms that jog just far enough away from the coast to stay off shore or weaken so that they are not as strong as the forecast or in general don’t live up to the hype. That’s sort of our experience with hurricanes, right? Andrew was just the opposite. Andrew was the worst to forecast and it really came together right before making landfall, so it was almost a sneak attack.
Q: What do people ask you the most or share with you upon meeting you?
A: They want to tell me where they were. They start by saying, ‘We lived at 137th Avenue and 111th Street in Kendall.’ We talk to people in that neighborhood and they want to tell me what happened in their house and that they were listening on the radio when you went into the bunker and we went into the bathroom and held the door. We had everybody holding the door. Or we got under the mattress and I put my brother in the bathtub under the mattress while we held the door. Some variation on that because that’s what everybody did.
Q: Do you think we’re ready for another Andrew?
A: Not remotely. No. Any hurricane can be worse today than it was then for a number of reasons … one is there is so much more stuff here now. Buildings are built a lot better than they were in 1992, but you have so many more people with so much more wealth. There is so much more damage to do and so what happens is that every Category 1 or 2 hurricane you have now becomes one of the top five most-expensive hurricanes.
The other issue is how we communicate with people. It’s much more difficult than it was 25 years ago because now you get fragmented messages from so many directions. You are going to get myriad opinions about the threat and updates every five minutes every time you look at Twitter or the internet … People don’t trust the government and the media, so the information that comes out from the knowledgeable people is, for many people, tainted by distrust.
If you can’t communicate with people and can’t have them trust the messages, it becomes much more difficult to handle a catastrophic event.
Q: What do you want readers to take away from the book?
By far the No. 1 takeaway is that Andrew came in — didn’t jog, didn’t move — came in straight in and stronger than forecast.
That can happen. It doesn’t happen often, and anybody who lives in a hurricane zone [who] doesn’t understand that lesson of Andrew is not thinking clearly. So the takeaway from that is, indeed you have to prepare for a worse storm than actually hits most of the time, because you never know when one is going to behave like Andrew and it’s going to actually be worse than forecast.
The other is, a lot of the book is about WTVJ and the process I went through and we went through to prepare, and that every system we put in place, we used. Every backup system we put in place, we used. We were able to do what we were able to do because we had spent 2 1/2 years preparing like no TV station before or since.
We were preparing for something that probably wasn’t going to happen, but then this unbelievable epic thing happened. That’s what preparation is about. The odds are you are not going to need [it], except when you do.
Book signings are scheduled at four Books and Books locations:
7 p.m. Aug. 15 at Lincoln Road Mall, 927 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach
Noon Aug. 19 at Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave.
6 p.m. Aug. 22 at Suniland Shops, 11297 S. Dixie Highway, Pinecrest
7 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
For more information, go to