A DIRECT HIT!
How Morris & Reynolds Insurance Survived Hurricane Andrew
“Andrew was a small and ferocious Cape Verde hurricane that wrought unprecedented economic devastation along a path through the northwestern Bahamas, the southern Florida peninsula, and south-central Louisiana. Damage in the United States is estimated to be near 25 billion, making Andrew the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. The tropical cyclone struck southern Dade County, Florida, especially hard, with violent winds and storm surges characteristic of a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale, and with a central pressure (922 mb) that is the third lowest this century for a hurricane at landfall in the United States. In Dade County alone, the forces of Andrew resulted in 15 deaths and up to one-quarter million people left temporarily homeless. An additional 25 lives were lost in Dade County from the indirect effects of Andrew2. The direct loss of life seems remarkably low considering the destruction caused by this hurricane.”
– Ed Rappaport, National Hurricane Center.
August 24th 1992 was a Monday to remember.
It started just before sunrise and lasted for more than three hours. On that morning Miami was terrorized by the largest tropical windstorm to ever hit our shores. Hurricane Andrew roared through our community, sounding, literally, like the largest, loudest, locomotive train we had ever heard. Our homes shook, debris flew through the sky at hundreds of miles per hour, cars and trees and buildings could be heard literally being torn apart. The screaming sounds outside in the morning blackness during those hours were horrific.
After digging out of what was left of our home, and then visiting the near total devastation of my parents’ residence, my father, brother and I traveled to our office on 158th Street.
A drive that took 15 minutes on any other day lasted two hours. We drove through people’s yards, around power lines (many still ‘live’) and over every type of debris imaginable. As we passed other people in what seemed like slow motion everyone looked as if they were in shock. Of course they were.
We were all in shock.
The closer we came to our office the worse the damage became. When we finally arrived to what was left of our business, our livelihood, we were simply stunned. And we were silent.
Our office had taken a direct, devastating, hit.
All of the doors and windows were gone. Half of the roof was missing and the remaining half was filled with gapping holes.
Nearly everything that had been inside was now outside or lost forever. Paper was everywhere. Soaking wet in some cases, softly blowing in the breeze in others. Amid that afternoon’s silence the sound of paper fluttering in the warm wind was, somehow, un- natural and eerie.
And the fish!
There were thousands of dead fish plastered all over our walls, on the outside, on the ground and strangely, inside too. Everywhere we looked we saw flattened fish. Clearly our building had been hit by tornados during the storm.
Talk about a rough way to start the work week!
Like so many local businesses and residents in our community, Morris & Reynolds Insurance and the Reynolds family had taken a direct hit from Hurricane Andrew.
Physically we lost nearly everything we owned. Our office went without power for exactly 30 days. We had little phone service. No computers, no copiers, no pads of paper, virtually, honestly, nearly to nothing.
Except each other.
We had each other and that’s how we survived the impact of Hurricane Andrew. The “secret” to our survival, and then our success?
Our truly wonderful, TEAM of excellent people.
In the months following that bleak day we had thousands of client’s visit what was left of our office to seek help with their own damage and claims. Most had suffered devastating losses and had, themselves, taken direct hits from this monster storm.
Often, however, they would tell us that they somehow felt “better” about their own plight by seeing how badly we ourselves had been damaged. And by knowing that we were still there for them.
Morris & Reynolds took a direct hit from Hurricane Andrew but our people, our caring TEAM, never lost its focus from their mission of serving others in our clients most dire time of need. Literally before the storm’s winds calmed our business transformed itself from sales and underwriting to adjusting and paying claims.
For a business that spans nearly six decades and three generations of family ownership, we are, deeply proud of the fact that the morning after Andrew devastated our community, and our office, every person on our TEAM arrived at work, eager to help our clients in their time of need.
That commitment to serve and care, as well as our work in the months that followed, make us very, very proud indeed.
Our conditions were truly terrible, but our professional people made a commitment to serve others in need rather than worry about our own (or their own) circumstances. For four months, seven days a week, from sunrise until after sunset we helped thousands of people settle their claims, repair their homes and most importantly, rebuild their lives.
It was, by far, some of the most difficult, yet rewarding and inspiring work of our professional lives.
Until and unless a catastrophe impacts you directly, personally, there is little that can prepare you properly. The scope of devastation everywhere you look. The torturous heat and humidity. Looting and Marshall Law. It’s all kind of hard to imagine, until you are a part of it. Until you live through it, it’s nearly impossible to explain how it ’feels’.
We learned a great deal from and since Andrew and are, today far better prepared to help our clients than ever before. Some of lessons that we learned include;
1) COMMUNICATE: Communication amongst our TEAM on how to prepare for a storm and what we plan to do, and when, after one, is critical. Prepare for a world without office phones, cell towers or other ‘communication devices’. We are well prepared.
2) PLAN: Backup phones, generators, computers and data are standing by, ready for the next time. Plan ahead. Plan NOW.
3) BUILD A BUNKER: Our new office is built with Andrew in mind. We would rather not see it tested and we wonder how one can, honesty, offset (upset?) Mother Nature, but we’ve done all that we can think of to make her work more difficult next time.
4) THERE WILL BE A NEXT TIME: 1926’s killer storm, Donna in 1960 and last year’s Summer of Storms, prove that. When the next one does arrive please know that you will be able to rely on the people of Morris & Reynolds to help you. We promise to perform.
We are deeply proud of the care and of the quality results that our professional people provided to our clients following Hurricane Andrew. Under horrific working conditions, against nearly all odds, we helped thousands of individuals, families and businesses restore their lives and livelihoods. We provided people with the peace of mind that they rightfully expect from their insurance agent and insurance company’s and we will do this again, the next time disaster strikes.
When you need us the most, we will always be here to help you.