Remembering Andrew
4:34 pm
Mon October 1, 2012

The Consul

There is a loud explosion as the roof is torn off. In my two years in Florida, this is the first time I have felt cold.

 

When we put out a call for Andrew stories, the British Consulate in Miami sent us a remarkable document. Kevin McGurgan, the British consul-general in Miami, was going through old papers, looking for stuff to throw out. “Buried at the bottom,” says McGurgan, “was an old file marked ‘Crisis Management: Hurricane Andrew-Lead-up, Destruction and Aftermath.’ We pulled it out and inside was this wonderful record detailing everything that the Consulate had done to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Andrew.”

In 1992, Philip Grice was the British consul-general in Miami. He filed his report about a week after Andrew. It’s nine pages long, single spaced. It’s an official record of the storm, but this is not a typical diplomatic report.

Grice starts with a formal tone, describing himself and his family in the third person. He switches to first person as he builds to the most terrifying parts of the storm.

He goes on to describe the sweltering, mosquito-ridden days afterwards: the looting, the isolation.  Grice says Miami would have been favorite post if it hadn’t been for Andrew.

Grice is now the mayor of Camarthen, Wales. He says he wrote the report because he needed people to understand what it was like to witness the picture frames and roof tiles turn to shrapnel, to cower in the closet with the children and the dogs.

The report got filed away for 19 years, until it was rediscovered last year by the current consul-general. At diplomatic posts that are vulnerable to hurricanes, like the Dominican Republic and Cuba, Grice’s report is now required reading.