After Hurricane Andrew, ice became a precious commodity and a flashpoint of conflict.
Power was out, food was spoiling/rotting, and federal aid hadn’t arrived yet.
Deborah Gray Mitchell spent those first sticky days cleaning up debris outside her home in Belle Meade.
My friend brought us this gallon jug of ice, and in that gallon jug where it had melted a little bit was a little bit of water that that we could use to whet our whistle. It was just the most refreshing, happiest moment of my life to have a nice, cold drink of water.
Ed McClean didn’t have air conditioning at his house in the Redland for 100 days. So he used ice.
We were literally taking ice and putting it in Ziploc bags and stabbing holes in the bags. We have terrazzo floors which are rather cool so we would just lay on there and put the bags with the holes of ice and just let it run over us.
Lines of people snaked in front of ice factories and FEMA trailers like worshippers at a pilgrimage.
Former Miami Herald reporter, Geoffrey Tomb, described the scene at the Royal Palm Ice Factory in Coconut Grove:
Survivors stood in lines 5 blocks long waiting 4 hours in 93 degree heat for a shiver of its crystalline salvation. For much of Miami, it was a true oasis, the Lourdes of ice among the ruins.
Some people took advantage of the desperate need for ice. People paid prices like $10 for an 8-pound bag.
Alexander Green was willing to pay the crazy prices.
In those days after Hurricane Andrew, Dade County felt a lot like the Wild West. People had to wait in those lines, especially in South Dade, in unshaded parking lots or in Harris Field. The long sweltering days are consumed with just getting the daily necessities like food and water. People were desperate, but about much more than ice. Sometimes, fights broke out.
There were some changes after Andrew. Florida passed a price gouging law in 1993. It outlaws the sale of post-hurricane necessities like ice, water and chainsaws for prices “grossly exceeding” their value. During a state of emergency, it’s illegal to even sell those things without a business license.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management has been working on a real time map, called GATOR (Geospatial Assessment Tool for Operations and Resources). One function of the map will allow stores around the state to report whether they have supplies like ice and water after a storm.
And some people, like Deborah Gray Mitchell, prepare themselves a little more:
When there’s a mention of a storm I start making ice. I get gallon jugs of water and I freeze those so that I’m going to have ice when that storm hits.
The song in this piece was “Pretty” by Miami band, Ketchy Shuby.
You can read more accounts commemorating the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew when you visit our “Remembering Andrew” Storify.