Local 10's Todd Tongen remembers Hurricane Andrew

By Todd Tongen, Reporter, Anchor, ttongen@Local10.com
Published On: Aug 06 2012 04:52:11 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 16 2012 09:31:13 PM EDT
Country Walk
MIAMI -

Twenty years sounds like a long time, but not for traumatic events like the landfall of Hurricane Andrew.

I remember most of it like it was yesterday.

Do you remember the billboard at the golden glades interchange of the Coppertone girl getting her towel tugged by a small dog? Well, I remember the headless sight of her the day after Andrew hit.

Of course the damage was tenfold in Homestead, but at the time it was a chilling image all the same.

I was with Dianne Magnum inside a rented box truck at our transmitter site on the county line. Our transmitter building was not hurricane proof so we were assured if the tower came down, we were just outside the radius it would fall. Needless to say, they were difficult conditions to work with and not something we would consider today.

I was on the air with Ann Bishop just before our relay tower fell and we lost our transmission signal. We may not have owned that night, but we owned the coverage thereafter.

Weeks of 24/7 coverage. When have you ever seen that?

I was put in Sky 10 the day after Andrew and, my God, the depth of the damage was shocking. We heard rumors of hundreds of people dead in southwest Miami-Dade so we flew there. What we saw will forever stay with me.

A migrant community painted on their roof "We have no food." I told the chopper pilot to land and he responded that flight rules prohibited him from doing so.

"We just got hit by a hurricane. There are no flight rules," I said to him.

He landed.

Then I had him go back up with my photographer who shot a standup from the chopper while I was on the roof. It made nightly national news.

I can still remember how the piece began. A shot of a young child alone, crying in high grass and the phrase "If a child cries in a field and no one hears him, does he still make a sound?"

A viewer who was part of a flying club saw the plight of these people. The next day they arranged an airlift of supplies. I was so proud of our viewers for seeing a need and filling it.

Unfortunately, one of the planes crashed taking off and the pilot was killed. I can't express the roller coaster of emotion I felt but it was profound.

Hurricane Andrew showed us South Florida's best human spirit.

That is how I prefer to remember it. 

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