Tag Archives: hurricane andrew

Friday Bottom 3: Weather Events

These are the three worst weather events directly impacting my life.

#3. 2005 Hurricane Triple Header – Florida received a 1-2-3 punch combo in the Summer and Fall 2005 hurricane season. Homestead received one of its highest precipitation totals ever recorded and most of Dade and Broward counties were out of power for extended periods while much of Homestead’s power outages lasted weeks. Katrina, Rita and then Wilma had South Florida residents putting up shutters, taking them down, and repeating two more times. Just about everywhere you went standing water blocked vehicle progress and flooded homes.

#2. The Winter Storm January 1996 – I was returning to Lee University in Cleveland following Christmas break with Andrew Hoomook when an ice storm hit the east. From Atlanta north into TN, roads were closed for three days. We ended up grabbing a room for two nights in Cold-lanta to try and wait out some of the nastiness. At one point for several miles, we were slowed to almost idle speed to keep from sliding off the ice covered roads. The conditions occurred because a layer of rain froze on the road was followed by freezing rain falling on top. I saw numerous cars blown off the road by wind, people losing control and being stranded in ditches, and semi tractor trailers barrelling down the road at speeds well above the rest of traffic. It was frightening to say the least.

#1. Hurricane Andrew, 1992 – Thank the Lord I did not directly experience the wind of Hurricane Andrew. That weekend, my mom and I were in Cleveland, TN helping Travis get moved into his dorm for his freshman year at Lee University and my dad evacuated with Ron Cable (one of the HCOG church members who was working at Turkey Point with Bechtel, down temporarily from Fresno, CA). They evacuated west to Punta Gorda, FL and then traveled east to Central FL on the east coast, and followed the tailed end of the hurricane as it exited the state across Naples and into the Gulf. I stayed up all night Sunday evening at my cousins’ home in Atlanta watching the weather channel as the radar image showed that destructive storm land in Homestead while the weather people were stating that it was heading for Titusville, then Palm Beach County, and the Miami. I kept thinking they must be blind since I could clearly see that it made a direct hit south of Miami, and had been on a straight line for Homestead since it went across the Bahamas. When we made our entrance to Homestead with our family friend David Barron (he was there to help us dry in the house and salvage anything from the mess that we possibly could), it took us a couple hours just to make it the 30 or so miles from near the airport in Miami south into Homestead itself via Florida’s Turnpike. The best way to describe the damage in Homestead was ground zero of a massive bomb. The few trees that were not toppled were completely stripped of leaves, every home in our neighborhood was practically destroyed, cars were destroyed, all mobile home/pre fab homes were flattened and debris strewn everywhere, many roads completely impassable by car, boats were found miles inland, and even the grass was destroyed by driving wind and salt water tidal surge (in areas). We slept on a picnic bench outside the house for a couple nights since the house was covered with fiberglass insulation and rain water. The contents of Travis’ room was sucked out when his shutters failed, and my room was soaked from rain which fell through the destroyed roof. We were without power for 4 months, though we did have generated power for some lighting and refrigeration a few weeks into our recovery. It really was a tough but learning time for me, though I know I had it good compared to so many other people. At a later time, I can go into more details of the events, experiences, sad and funny things I saw and did during that defining time in the life of my family. I am sure my dad also has many stories to share that you may find fascinating.

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Profiles LPC/HCOG: The Recap

I have only been doing this blog for a couple months. This week I am going to just do the lazy thing and redirect some of you who have only recently been visiting the site. So, no new material this week.

Frankie France

Ela Ortega

Gene and Margaret Hadsel

Christmas in Homestead 1992

GTWGH Thanksgiving 1992

Bob Baker

Arlene Rance

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Profiles LPC/HCOG: Christmas in Homestead 1992

Due to the massive Moonlight Easter Egg Hunt event, we decided to hear about about another massive event in our church’s history. Last week’s “Profiles” entry about Giving Thanks With a Grateful Heart has been one of the most read entries since I started blogging. Therefore, I asked my dad to provide another entry about the Christmas event in 92 that was a gi-normous (that’s gigantic and enormous) outreach of the Homestead Church of God, now Life Pointe.

by JT Johnson

Hurricane Andrew radarChristmas in Homestead, 1992Hurricane Andrew

Giving Thanks With A Grateful Heart was such a great success that sponsors were lining up to help HCOG (now Life Pointe) do something special for Andrew survivors during the Christmas season. The energetic, irrepressible Dr. William E. Bailey of the Insurance Information Institute was not only open to doing something big for Homestead area, he set about raising enough money to do it. What a fine Christian business man!

Bill seemed to know personally the CEOs of virtually every significant insurance company in America : Hartford , Allstate, USF&G, Church Mutual, Mutual of Omaha, as well as Independent Insurance Agents of America from numerous states responded in substantive ways to his appeals for sponsorship of the HCOG Disaster Relief Fund. HCOG used this fund to help thousands of Andrew survivors and we did so without using one penny of it for administrative costs. Every dollar donated was a dollar spent on Andrew survivors.

Christmas is always a tough time for people in extreme situations. It is supposed to be a happy time for families, but it is hard to be filled with good cheer when your roof is gone and you are sleeping in the many makeshift shelters that dotted the ravaged trail left by that monster, Hurricane Andrew.

So we came up with a way to empower parents to be the hero to their children. The idea was to provide vouchers, worth $25, to parents for each of their children so that the parents would be the heroes to their own kids. Parents with five children got five vouchers. Parents could buy for Christmas what they, in their parental wisdom, decided would be best for their children.

About two weeks before Christmas, I went to Sears at Cutler Ridge Mall as it was called then with a HCOG disaster relief fund check, marched up to their customer service window and tried to buy one thousand (1000) $25.00 gift certificates. At first they didn’t notice me standing at the window, but finally someone came walking by inside the window and decided to ask me if I needed help. Words do not describe the range of looks I got when I told them I wanted to spend $25,000 buying Sears Gifts Certificates. The Credit Manager was called, who, apparently believing me to be some kook, told me a check for that much could not be used to buy Sears Gift Certificates, but that I would have to use a Cashier’s Check or a Certified Check. We all know that banks routinely verify checks, especially those drawn on local banks, which ours, of course, was. It was about noon . I didn’t waste time arguing, but told them I’d be right back. I went to our bank in Homestead , the same one we provided free hot meals every day for three months. Mr. Losner, the Bank’s president, instructed the cashier to get me, ASAP and without service charge, a Cashier’s check for $25,000.00 from HCOG’s Disaster Relief Fund made out to Sears.

When I walked back into the Sears Customer Service Department an hour later, I heard a guy behind the window say,” He’s back!” This time the Store Manager was summoned and she showed up fast. My treatment was a lot different this time. I was now being called, “Pastor”. However, when the Cashier’s Check for 25k smolliens was produced you should have seen their expressions!

Well, giving away $25,000, in twenty-five dollars increments is not as easy as you think. Bill Bailey provided a Florida State Highway Patrol escort. Crowd control was an issue we had a bit of experience with after Andrew, having endured a mini-riot giving away food and water. We controlled the crowd by requiring a signed, duly approved and filled out voucher to be exchanged for the gift certificate. The number of blank vouchers were limited to the number of Certificates we had. About a week prior to Christmas itself we used four church locations as well as our own location as staging areas for the gift giving. Blank vouchers were distributed by our fellow church congregations. Each voucher request had to be authorized by the respective church’s pastor, who had to approve that each request was valid. This eliminated fraud, strengthened the local church and pastor and gave proof to our donors, if they ever requested it, where every voucher went. It also provided a terrific database for follow-ups for each church. We distributed vouchers to every significant demographic we knew about in South Dade , without regard to their church or religious affiliation.

It was exhilarating. It was moving. It was joyful. I never felt so pumped. Giving is truly more blessed than receiving. My hand was shaken, my neck hugged and my picture taken so much a presidential candidate would have been downright envious of the whole day. Parents cried and children laughed. Scores of “Christmas in Homestead ” tee shirts, donated toys and turkeys were distributed, free of charge, too.

Then on Christmas Eve, ‘neath a beautiful night sky freckled with twinking stars, peering through the remaining steel beams of our roofless sanctuary, we sang Christmas Carols by candlelight, and reminded ourselves of another starry night about two thousand years ago when angels sang, a baby was born and Heaven kissed the planet Earth.


I’d like to tell you about the time The Sugar Bowl took up an offering for HCOG. I’ll save that for another time.

I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. It was beautiful. It was bigger than any person or church group. It was a moment ordained by God. Being an active part of the volunteers along with my mom, Arlene, Nancy, and many others, I can tell you that this was an amazing time in the history of Life Pointe/HCOG and the City of Homestead. So many people were able to share in a beautiful time with their families in the midst of the ruins of their once normal neighborhoods. Many families were given the opportunity to see the true meaning of Christmas, demonstrated by the tireless efforts of HCOG through relief and community outreach. The carols in the roofless building that many people mistakenly refer to as a church was memorable and touching. That year proved what we now know: We are the church and we meet in a building; the building is not the church. The building doesn’t have to have a steeple in order to hold a church; we show this at the theater. The building doesn’t even have to have a roof, as we have proven following Andrew. The building just makes it a little more comfortable for the church to get together.


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