MIAMI (CBS4) - Marilyn Soltanipour's little piece of paradise is in Pembroke Pines, a community that saw tremendous growth after Hurricane Andrew devastated parts of Miami-Dade County 20 years ago.
When Andrew struck on August 24, 1992, Soltanipour and her family lived in Kendall where homes were destroyed and lives were shattered by the hurricane. The Soltanipours moved north to a new home months after the storm. They joined thousands of fellow Miami-Dade residents who wanted a new beginning in southwest Broward.
"Frankly, it never occurred to us to live anywhere but Miami-Dade County. And then Andrew hit and changed everything," Soltanipour said.
In the mid-90s, construction crews couldn't work fast enough to build homes in southwest Broward. As soon as they went up there were buyers ready to move in. Andrew coincided with a building boom in the region and the completion of Interstate 75 which made the commute to and from Miami-Dade manageable for thousands of refugees from Andrew. Broward County's population was already growing at a good clip, but after Andrew the numbers shot up dramatically.
According to the South Florida Regional Planning Council, Broward's population rose by 15,000 in 1991. The year Andrew hit, it increased by more than 23,000, and nearly the same amount the next year. The city that saw the biggest growth was Pembroke Pines, absorbing more than six thousand new residents a year in the three years after Andrew, and nearly ten thousand new residents in 1996, four years after the storm.
"We became the fastest growing city in the nation at the time," said Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis. "When I walked through the district in the year after Andrew, I saw Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue cars everywhere so I knew these were Dade county people who had just settled into our city."
The new residents from Miami-Dade tended to be younger and included a large number of Hispanics and Caribbean Americans, adding to the diversity of Broward County.
"The new residents had some real tragic things happen in their lives," Ortis added. "They came to this area that was newly developed and it turned out great for them and great for us."
The hurricane and the devastation it brought to Miami-Dade accelerated an already growing southwest Broward in a way no one expected.
"Pembroke Pines and other cities in southwest Broward grew as a result of Andrew," Soltanipour said. "We were part of that growth and we helped shape the future of this community."
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