Longtime resident’s photo collection recounts wrath of Hurricane Andrew

George Leser stepped out of his Key Biscayne condominium in August 1992, waded through 2 feet of water that had seeped in after Hurricane Andrew roared through the area, and started snapping.

George Leser,hours after Hurricane Andrew hit Key Biscayne

George Leser, originally from Wisconsin, lived through Hurricane Andrew and documented the storm’s impact on the island by taking many pictures. 

 

Camera in hand, he created a visual account of the category 5 storm that killed 65 and topped out with 174-mph winds. It is a storm he said he wanted to experience. And after he survived, he documented it.

The old Vernon’s Drugs store under water

The old Vernon’s Drugs store (now Artisan Kitchen & Bar) a few hours after Hurricane Andrew struck.

 

Originally from Wisconsin, Leser rode out the storm – that flattened parts of Key Biscayne and South Florida, and also hit other areas including the Bahamas and Louisiana – from his first-floor condo at Cay Polynesia on Sunrise Drive. He remembers the wind, and he remembers the noise. And he remembers it visually through the photos he took as the sun rose the morning after.

Flooded streets and cars hours after Hurricane Andres hit Key Biscayne

“I wanted to experience a hurricane,” he recalled. “I just wanted to see. The winds were very, very bad. It was quite loud. It wasn’t gusts of wind; it was consistent wind. Andrew was considered a dry hurricane … it didn’t rain that much for a hurricane.

“We’ve all been in storms when branches bend over and back. But these stayed bent over. I live in a condo and we lost one-third of our roof; the whole thing had to be replaced. Some windows were out (because) people didn’t have shutters on. Now we have ‘impact windows’.”

Crandon Boulevard, in front of the library.

More than 25 years later, Leser lives in the same condo – but no longer on the first floor.

The morning after Andrew struck – after a sleepless night – he walked around and took “a whole lot of pictures.”

They include the Key Biscayne Post Office without a roof, floating cars and leveled buildings. There are some photos only longtime Key Biscayne residents would recognize because some structures are no longer erect.

A couple of years ago, Leser stayed home when a category 2 storm hit. No matter the rating, he said, it’s best to be prepared.

“You need gasoline, water, charcoal fluid, batteries, an emergency radio,” he said. “The barest essentials become the most important thing. It’s a lot of work because you have to prepare. You should have ‘impact windows.’ They’ll break but won’t break through. Have those, plus iron shutters.”

The old Stefano’s location in the entry-lot.

Today, the first floor of his condominium unit shows a water line where water came through in 1992.

“The first floor of our building was flooded … about two feet of water in it,” Leser said. “I kept a little section in each apartment where you can see the water line. Just to leave it. There are no other hurricanes since then that did that.”

The clean up commences days after Andrew hit KB

Asked what he thought when he looked back at the photos he took, he said, “It was just crazy times. Lucky it wasn’t worse.

“It was a once in a lifetime experience; one I’ll never forget. It could happen anytime.”

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