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updated: 9/7/2017 8:24 PM

Rozner: Dawson prepares to ride out hurricane in Miami

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  • Andre Dawson, here helping celebrate the Wheeling Park District reopening of Heritage Park, says he will ride out Hurricane Irma in his Miami home.

    Andre Dawson, here helping celebrate the Wheeling Park District reopening of Heritage Park, says he will ride out Hurricane Irma in his Miami home.
    Daily Herald file photo/June 2015


It was 25 years ago this week that Andre Dawson returned to Chicago from Miami after witnessing the destruction of Hurricane Andrew.

He had left the Cubs for a few games, needing to see in person the damage to his home that was suddenly uninhabitable, to assure his wife and children that all would be well.

But what he saw hardly allowed him peace of mind.

As we sat in traffic on the Kennedy that night of Sept. 3, 1992, heading into Chicago from O'Hare Airport, Dawson was emotional when reliving what he had seen, mile after mile of war zone, flattened homes, businesses, trees and utility poles.

Much worse was what he had heard.

In the dark of night, friends and relatives had roofs torn from above, walls ripped from foundations and debris swirling in tornadic winds, all while battered by hurricane force rains.

Men surrounded women and children as they clung to wrought-iron fences and porches, listening to that freight train howl for hour after hour, praying for the light of day and the end of the nightmare.

For many, that steely lifeline was all that remained anchored.

"We were in San Diego when Andrew hit," Dawson remembered Thursday afternoon as he prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Irma. "I stayed up all night, trying to reach relatives on the phone, but we lost all the phones down there pretty fast.

"It was days before we could actually find out where everyone was and if they were OK."

The worst of Andrew hit Homestead, Florida, missing Dawson's home by about a mile. Still south of Miami, Dawson has since moved away from Biscayne Bay, now a few miles from the coast. In 1992, his house was only blocks from the water.

Just a hair inside the evacuation zone today, close enough to throw a baseball onto U.S. Route 1, Dawson will ride out Irma in his fortified home.

"As of right now, it looks like the worst might miss us," Dawson said Thursday. "But there's still time for it to alter its direction and it's so big we're definitely going to get hit hard.

"Either way, we're staying. We have impact windows and impact doors designed to withstand 180 mph winds, so if they do their job we should be OK. The house is only 11 or 12 years old and everything's up to code for a Category 5 storm.

"The last time we took a direct hit was Katrina, but that was only a (Category) 1 when the eye went over us, before it went into the Gulf and became a monster. Damage was minimal. This one is already a monster. They think it'll be a Category 4 when it gets here."

Dawson said the last forecast they got in Miami was for Irma to move right up the coast between Miami Beach and downtown, which if true will cause catastrophic damage in a heavily populated area just north and east of Dawson's home.

But it could still hit anywhere from Miami to Naples, and no one in that path is safe.

The winds are supposed to begin about 8 p.m. Friday, the outer bands hitting early Saturday and the eye will reach Miami on Sunday.

"We've been through it before and we'll go through it again. I ain't gonna worry about it," Dawson said. "Once I close my eyes, I'll try to get some sleep.

"It can be nerve-wracking for people. They get impatient. They panic. They get in fights because they get impatient.

"You sort of have to have a mindset if you're going to get through it, and if you're going to ride it out you have to be patient.

"The worst part for me with Andrew is I wasn't here. This time I'm here with my family."

And Andre Dawson isn't leaving.

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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