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Day Two: The Accidental Life of Cannon Point

From Kenny Malone | Part of the Neglected to Death series | 07:51

Cannon Point is a one-block stretch in Broward County, Florida, with the highest concentration of mental health assisted-living facilities in the state. It was designed to be a haven for the middle-class elderly. It's turned into a block-long mental institution. Over the past eight years, local police have gotten more than 14,000 calls from Cannon Point. That's a call once every four hours. WLRN's collaborative investigation with the Miami Herald found that mental health assisted-living facilities are twice as likely to have cases of abuse and neglect compared to facilities that cater to the elderly. This piece looks at the complexities and failings of mental health assisted-living facilities through the story of Officer Tom Merenda, a cop with a strange affinity for the characters of Cannon Point -- and a surprising reason why.


The Accidental Life of Cannon Point (prose version)

By Kenny Malone, WLRN Miami Herald News

It’s 6 a.m. in Lauderhill, a working class city of 70,000 people in Broward County. The sun is not yet up.

Lauderhill Police Officer Tom Merenda walks past drab stucco buildings crammed into one block in the city’s Cannon Point neighborhood.

Ten assisted living facilities are packed onto this U-shaped block. ALFs in Florida house two of the state’s most vulnerable populations: the elderly and the mentally ill. All ten of Cannon Point’s facilities cater specifically to people with mental illness. The neighborhood has the highest concentration of mental-health ALFs in Florida.

A year-long collaborative investigation by the Miami Herald and WLRN found that the rate of abuse and neglect in Florida ALFs that cater to people with mental illness is twice as high as the rate in ALFs that serve only the elderly.

At this hour, Cannon Point is relatively quiet. Merenda points to the right at a beige one-story building, Briarwood Manor, the most heavily fined ALF in Florida.

“This facility here, Briarwood Manor, has one of our more prominent residents. His name is Stephen King,” Merenda says. “He’s not the famous book writer, he’s a famous panhandler. But he’s the nicest guy you ever meet. Except for when he’s on crack.”

For Officer Merenda, Stephen King is the embodiment of Cannon Point: A guy as complex and explosive as the place itself.

King suffers from a mental illness. And like many of the residents of Cannon Point, King uses the drugs sold by neighborhood dealers as a way to self-medicate.

Merenda often runs into King on his patrol. A normal interaction would start with King saying, “Hey Officer Tom!” And Merenda would ask, “How are you and your girlfriend doing?” King would say, “Oh, we’re okay.” Merenda would warn King, “Stay off the street corner! Don’t be beggin’ for money here!” And King would respond, “Oh, don’t worry I’ll go into Lauderdale Lakes and do that.”

Merenda chuckles. He knows how harmless this interaction sounds – and about how fast things in Cannon Point can change.

Two years ago, Merenda was dispatched to Cannon Point because Stephen King had gone on a drug-fueled rampage and was holed up in his room in Briarwood. Merenda knocked on the door, calling his name. King, high on crack, lets fly a string of curses. King had stabbed another resident with a large knife. He had punched through a television set. When Merenda finally got into King’s room, blood was everywhere.

“And you just have to put on some latex gloves and just go in there and try to subdue them without getting blood in your mouth or in your eyes or whatever,” Merenda says. His eyes soften. “But he needs help.”

Briarwood had an on-duty caretaker. Residents told police she was asleep during the stabbing.

Our investigation found that caretakers at other mental health ALFs in Florida have been routinely caught drunk on the job or abandoning their posts entirely.

We found that Florida’s requirements to run a home for people with mental illnesses are among the lowest in the nation. The state requires just a high school diploma and 26 hours of training. That’s less than the state credentials for barbers, beauticians and auctioneers.

Nowhere in Florida exemplifies the challenges of mental health ALFs better than Cannon Point. Police get a call from Cannon Point on average once every 4 hours. That’s 14,000 calls over the last 8 years.

Cannon Point has just one percent of Lauderhill’s population. Yet it accounts for one in four calls city-wide about missing persons. And it is the source of one in three calls about the mentally ill – known in police jargon as signal 20s. Police call the neighborhood Signal 20 ville.

Locals have a different name for it: U-Street. The neighborhood has its own YouTube channel featuring videos of street-fights and homemade rap anthems.

Tom Merenda polices Cannon Point more than almost anyone else in the Lauderhill Police Department. He has his own nickname for the place: “I call it home. Because it’s my home away from home.”

Though the morning is dark and drizzly, Merenda’s wearing short shorts with his uniform. His white knee caps peek out. Merenda’s mom says he has nice legs. His colleagues make fun of his “chicken legs” – as well as his affection for the characters of Cannon Point. The other officers call Merenda the Signal-20 whisperer.

A figure shuffles up to Merenda in the dark, screaming something unintelligible. Merenda can just make out the man’s grubby hat and stained sweatshirt.

Merenda smiles. “Top of the morning to ya!”

The man says, “I used to be a police out here, I used to be a police for Hialeah Westland.”

The man is unsteady on his feet. A lone car approaches. “Watch out for the car,” Merenda warns. “Are you retired now?”

The man says, “I’ve been working for ‘em for 50 years.”

“Well, it’s about time to take a retirement.”

Merenda calls men like this “our mental health consumers.”

This was not the city’s vision for Cannon Point.

Merenda has no idea how the neighborhood became a haven for drugs, violence, and signal-20s. Earl Hahn, the current planning and zoning director for Lauderhill, has a few ideas about how this happened. That’s because he’s spent hundreds of hours trying to undo it.

“What’s that saying? The road to hell is full of good intentions?” Hahn says.

In 1996, Lauderhill planners hatched a plan: to turn Cannon Point into a haven for the middle-class elderly. The city spent over $400,000 in infrastructure improvements to make the area look nicer. They repaired its drainage problems. They turned the two-way streets into a one-way “U”. They added landscaping, benches, trash cans.

The most important change was new zoning to allow ALFs into Cannon Point.

“I hoped that it could become a safe place for the people that needed to live there,” said Kelly Carpenter, the city’s Planning and Zoning Director in 1996. “People that end up in ALFs are often people that have family that can’t afford to take them or don’t want to take them or are unable to take them. And I think it was a superior effort of a local government to do that work.”

Carpenter now works as a planner in Baytown, Texas. But she told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 1996 that Cannon Point has “been very well thought out.” She called Cannon Point one of her proudest achievement as a planner.

But things did not turn out as the city planned. Instead of elderly residents, the area filled with people with mental illness. Just one in three ALFs in Florida currently have a mental health license. All ten facilities in Cannon Point do.

“You know it’s hard to establish mental health facilities and many people don’t want them in their neighborhoods,” Hahn says. “Once we opened it up and said, ‘Welcome! Welcome all!’ then you’ve opened up the door. Owners say, here we can locate without the problems.”

Now, 15 years later, Cannon Point has become a source of problems. But Officer Merenda says Cannon Point is also a home.

“If it wasn’t for these ALFs,” he says, “either somebody would be on the street or they would be with a relative that can’t take care of their loved one that’s having problems.”

I ask Merenda, “But would you send your grandparent to one of these ALFs?”

He says, “Sometimes you don’t have a choice.”

This is where Merenda’s story gets complicated. In uniform, Officer Merenda symbolizes everything that can go wrong with mental health ALFs. When he’s off the clock, he exhibits the pressing need for them.

His mother, Christine, is in a mental health ALF. She suffers from Paranoid Schizophrenia.

One morning, Merenda visits his mom. He knocks on the door and whispers to me, “She hasn’t seen me in a while, so she’s gonna be freaking out.”

Christine Merenda opens the door. “Hi mom!” Merenda says. Her face lights up. “Oh, Tommy! Honey! Oh, I love you. I missed you.” She hugs him.

Her room smells like smoke. Her bed has one sheet. The walls are bare, except for a blue and green finger painting by one of Tom’s two daughters.

After the visit, I asked Merenda if his mother’s mental illness is why is so affectionate for the characters of Cannon Point. “It just so happens that I have personal knowledge of it. And, you know, it’s personal for me.” Merenda pauses. “I hope that’s not why I care so much. But it may be.”

Merenda admits he feels guilty every time he visits his mom in that drab room. “But I know it’s the only option I have,” he says. “I can’t afford to keep her where I’m living. And when she is off her meds, I have kids at home and things like that. I just can’t have them grow up in that type of environment.”

Merenda thinks Cannon Point can be saved: “I mean…I could always try.”

City leaders, though, have given up. Lauderhill recently passed an ordinance to remove all ALFs from Cannon point by the year 2016.

The Miami Herald investigative team of Mike Sallah, Rob Barry and Carol Marbin Miller contributed to this story.

Day One: The Death of Aurora Navas

From Kenny Malone | Part of the Neglected to Death series | 07:17

In Florida, tens of thousands of people live in the state's nearly 3,000 assisted-living facilities. A ground-breaking year-long collaborative investigation by the Miami Herald and WLRN has turned up at least 70 questionable deaths due to caretaker neglect in Florida assisted-living facilities over the past decade. As the nation ages, Florida is a case study for how we care for the elderly. This piece looks at the failings of state oversight through one case, the "accidental" drowning of 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient Aurora Navas, to show how a state once renowned for protecting its elderly is failing to enforce its own regulations.


The Death of Aurora Navas (Prose version of the story)

By Kenny Malone, WLRN Miami Herald News

In Florida, state regulators are failing to protect residents of assisted living facilities, according to an investigation by The Miami Herald and NPR member station WLRN. An analysis of state records revealed dozens of questionable deaths in assisted living facilities.

The revelation is a reversal for Florida, which was among the first U.S. states to regulate assisted living facilities, and to adopt a Residents Bill of Rights. The state now has nearly 3,000 assisted living facilities, which house tens of thousands of people.

As the U.S. population ages, Florida is a case study for how the country protects some of its most vulnerable citizens. And one case in particular - that of Aurora Navas, who drowned at age 85 - exposes both the failings of some assisted living facilities and a lack of state oversight.

Aurora Navas spent her life terrified of water. And yet in 1962, she put her three kids - by themselves - on a Pan-Am flight, sending them out of Fidel Castro's Cuba and over the ocean to America. One year later, her husband, Manuel, came over by boat.

It wasn't until five years later that Aurora would fly to the United States and be reunited with her family, in Chicago. There, she spent 13 years working on an assembly line at a transistor factory.

She helped pay for a vacation to Miami Beach, where Aurora watched from the sand in fear as her kids played in the ocean. And as her children grew up, she never forgot the six years she had lost with them.

Even long after they'd grown up, "she still referred to me as 'baby' - the baby, nene," says Alfredo Navas, the youngest of Aurora's three children.

After her husband died in 1983, Aurora retired and moved to Tampa, to be near Alfredo and the rest of her family. Alfredo says he visited her every day - but that as his mom got older, he had to hire extra help.

"Just to keep an eye on her and make sure she took her medication, [and] she didn't leave the stove on," Alfredo says. "She was still cooking - she was a strong bird."

In her early 80s, doctors diagnosed Aurora with Alzheimer's disease. Not long afterwards, she moved to Isabel Adult Care III, a six-bed assisted living facility in Southern Miami-Dade County. Isabel Adult Care III has fancy sconces, a covered walkway, and an elegant stone façade. It also sits right next to a lake.

The first time Alfredo visited, he noticed the lake. By then, his mother had started to wander out of bed at night. And with her fear of water in mind, he wanted to make sure she would be safe.

"They had like a little chain-link fence that separated the lake from the property there," Alfredo says. "I did see a surveillance camera. You could see the alarm on the door. And there's always a person there. So it - everything seemed fine."

A Son Gets An Urgent Call

A Miami-Dade Police report describes what happened on Jan. 27, 2008. Around 3:45 in the morning, Aurora Navas got out of bed. She put on her light-blue house slippers and shuffled out of her room.

She walked past an unconnected surveillance camera. She wandered out a door with an improperly set alarm. She shuffled through an unlocked back gate. Two on-duty caretakers failed to stop her.

That night, Alfredo Navas woke up to the phone ringing. The call was from his older sister.

"She uh...she told me that there had been an accident at the nursing home, and that Mom had passed away," he says.

Police found his mother's left slipper lying next to the lake. And they determined that Aurora Navas, had drowned in around 18 inches of water. She was 85.

Dozens Of Deaths, And Few Consequences

A year-long investigation by The Miami Herald and WLRN has turned up at least 70 questionable deaths in Florida assisted living facilities over the last decade.

Herald investigative reporter Mike Sallah reads a list of deaths culled from thousands of state documents:

"Angel Joglar, 71; killed when left in a bathtub of scalding water."

"Gladys Horta, 74 years old; strapped so tightly the restraints ripped into her skin, causing a blood clot that killed her."

"Walter Cox, 75 years old; Alzheimer's patient. Wandered out of a facility for the fourth time; his body was found torn apart by an alligator."

We found deaths resulting from residents being deprived of their medication, and from residents being over-medicated. The cases stretched from Miami to the Florida Panhandle. Questionable deaths occurred in both 100-bed facilities and 6-bed facilities.

And in almost all 70 cases, there were few or no consequences for caretakers. Florida, once a national leader in policing assisted living facilities, has fallen behind in enforcement, our investigation shows.

Owner: 'All Procedures Were Followed'

The assisted living facility where Aurora Navas died is one of five owned by Isabel Lopez. When our reporting team visited another of her facilities, we spoke to Lopez in the driveway, along with with her three-legged dog named Ron -- or "rum," in Spanish.

Asked in broken Spanish if she remembers Aurora Navas, Lopez says that she does - and that her death was an accident. She says she doesn't know why the alarm didn't work on the night Aurora died. We have more questions, but the language barrier makes it too difficult.

Lopez asks us to call back the next day with an interpreter. When we do, she declines - through the interpreter - to answer any more questions.

The Florida agency charged with overseeing assisted living facilities and investigating deaths like that of Aurora Navas is the Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA. Every accidental death in an assisted living facility gets reported to AHCA.

Soon after Aurora Navas drowned, Isabel Lopez faxed her company's report of the incident to the agency. It reads, in part: "We found that all procedures were followed. The facility has door alarms, proper door locks, and a fenced backyard."

An AHCA spokesperson said the agency has no records of the Navas case. And the agency refused to comment on whether it pulled the police report. If it did consult the police report, AHCA officials would have read what we saw about the surveillance camera, the improperly set alarm, the unlocked gate.

The Navas family sued Isabel Lopez's company in civil court for wrongful death; the case was settled for an undisclosed amount. The family's lawyer was Michael Feiler, who specializes in bringing cases against assisted living facilities in Florida.

"On close examination, you see facilities with clearly inadequate living conditions, or improperly trained staff, or improper oversight," Feiler says. "And essentially, what you end up with is basically a bunch of small warehouses for the elderly. And that - I find that troubling."

Oversight Agency Holds Fewer Inspections

Because of a recent legislative change, AHCA performs inspections once every two years, instead of the annual inspections it once held. And as the assisted-living industry has expanded, AHCA's staffing has stayed the same.

Our investigation found that the agency is also taking longer to follow up on complaints: In 2009, AHCA took an average of 10 extra days to complete investigations into complaints compared to five years earlier.

And when facilities are found to have deficiencies, the agency rarely punishes them to the full extent of the law.

In 2008 and 2009, AHCA found enough violations that the agency could have revoked the licenses of at least 70 facilities, according to its rules. Instead, the state closed just seven.

Asked about that disparity, Nan Rich, the Democratic Minority Leader of the Florida Senate says, "Well, my first reaction is that AHCA is not doing their job."

Rich says our investigation shows that the state is headed in the wrong direction.

"So we need to go back and figure out how to make sure that the statutes are actually followed and enforced," she says, "and maybe there need to be stronger ones."

AHCA declined a request for an interview. In an email, the agency said that shutting down a facility is "a very harsh penalty."

The agency says it considers the "gravity of the violation" in each case, along with "actions taken by the owner...to correct violations," and "the potential emotional and physiological harm created by removing residents from their home."

AHCA would not comment specifically on the death of Aurora Navas. But an official wrote: "We are sympathetic to Mr. Navas regarding the loss of his mother."

A Lone Fine, For Medicaid Rules

Nearly all of Isabel Lopez's five facilities have a documented history of problems. On some occasions, the police have had to use bloodhounds and a helicopter to search for runaways from her facilities.

AHCA has found 119 different violations in Lopez's facilities over the past decade. But the only disciplinary action the agency has ever taken against Lopez's company was in 2009 - when it levied a $1,500 fine for not complying with Medicaid laws.

Alfredo Navas says he can't understand why AHCA never followed up on his mother's death.

"So what does AHCA do? It's just a paper-pusher," he says. "Somebody just died, you know. And if they're not applying the laws, and fining or closing these people down, then what are they there for?"

In her original incident report to AHCA, Isabel Lopez wrote, "All precautions were taken so that an occurrence like this would not happen."

But it did happen. And without AHCA enforcing its own rules, there's no governing body to prevent deaths like Aurora Navas's from happening again.

The Miami Herald investigative team of Mike Sallah, Rob Barry and Carol Marbin Miller contributed to this story.

Anatomy of a Crackdown: Florida gets tough on assisted living facilities

From Kenny Malone | Part of the Neglected to Death series | 06:01

I met Paul Encin on Christmas Morning at Shalom Manor, a 35-bed assisted living facility just west of Fort Lauderdale. Paul suffers from Paranoid Schizophrenia; that's the short version of he wound up living in Shalom.

That morning, Paul wanted desperately to tell me something was wrong. "Well, some of the staff isn’t particularly, shall we say, sociable or humane," he said.

But that's where Paul left it...

Almost a year later, Shalom is closed. Since the investigative series Neglected to Death first ran last May, state regulators have forced more facilities into closure than in the entire two-year period we studied for the series.

This piece examines that crackdown through Paul Encin and Shalom Manor. From his new, better facility Paul feels safe enough to tell me what he really wanted to say that Christmas Morning...


Anatomy of a Crackdown: Florida gets tough on assisted living facilities

By Kenny Malone


Florida’s assisted living industry is critically broken with deadly consequences. That was the finding of our series Neglected to Death, which first aired last May. The collaborative investigation between the Miami Herald and WLRN turned up dozens of deaths from abuse and neglect in Florida’s assisted living facilities.


In Clearwater, one resident wandered from his home three times. The fourth time, he was torn apart by alligators.


In Miami, a woman wandered so frequently that the facility strapped her down. The restraints tore into her skin and killed her.


In total, the Neglected to Death investigation uncovered more than 70 deaths from abuse and neglect.


The Agency for Health Care Administration or AHCA, which oversees eldercare facilities, could have shut down every single one of those homes. It closed just 7.


But in the months since that investigation first ran, some of Florida’s worst facilities have been shut down – at least 8 in total.  This is story of one man from one of those facilities:


Paul Encin lives in a much better assisted living facility now. He’s particularly impressed that he gets toilet paper, soap and towels, not to mention decent food. But Paul hasn’t forgotten how different it was when I met him a year ago.


“Yeah, I remember that morning when you showed up,” recalls Encin. “I wanted very much to tell you what was actually going on. But I was afraid to. But I got a little bold that morning maybe because it was Christmas Day.”


It’s Christmas day 2010 at Shalom Manor, an assisted living facility in the City of Lauderhill – about 6 miles west of Fort Lauderdale. A caretaker goes room to room, rounding up the nearly three-dozen residents for Christmas breakfast.


She pokes her head into Paul Encin’s room.


“Wake up for dining room please,” she shouts.


Like all the rooms I saw, Paul’s room is cramped and smells of body odor. Paul’s desk has a teetering stack of books including one on Paranoid Schizophrenia – the disease that landed him in Shalom. “My situation deteriorated over a period of time,” says Encin, “and I ended up in an assisted living facility. Now I’m on the rebound. It’s just a question of putting it back together financially until I get my own place again.”


Over the course of my conversation with Paul, he kept hinting that there were problems at Shalom Manor.


“Well, some of the staff isn’t particularly, shall we say, sociable or humane. To put it politely,” he first said.


“Inhumane in what ways,” I asked.


“Some of the staff is, shall we say, almost abusive at times.”




“Almost abusive,” Paul says, “they walk a fine line.”


And that’s where Paul leaves it. We head to the dining hall where Christmas breakfast is cornflakes and scrambled eggs.


There’s not a whole lot of holiday spirit here other than resident Nancy McPhail’s Santa Claus hat. She mouths a spoonful of cornflakes and agrees, “yeah, I’m the only one.”


Shalom Manor is closed now. Since our series Neglected to Death ran in May, the state has forced eight homes to shut down.


AHCA has been working with law enforcement and other state agencies to shut problem facilities down.


“We’re looking at our full array of regulatory tools,” says Molly McKinstry, deputy secretary for health quality assurance at AHCA, “I think those coordinated efforts have been improved over the past several months.”


AHCA has shutdown more facilities in last four months than in the entire two-year period studied during the Neglected to Death investigation.


There was Sunshine Acres in the Panhandle where state inspectors found raw sewage spewing onto the property.


In St. Petersburg, at the Hilcrest Retirement Residence, AHCA found five sets of sheets stained with blood: The gruesome evidence of bed bug bites


And at Shalom Manor in Lauderhill, it was a more a grizzly incident that finally got the state’s attention.


It started with a call to the police just eight days after our investigative series first ran. The call came around 6:40 in the morning, according to Captain Constance Stanley with the Lauderhill Police Department. Caretakers at Shalom noticed one of their residents slumped over in his wheelchair. He wasn’t responding.


“What the staff proceeded to do rather than contact police or paramedics,” says Stanley, “they covered him up with a sheet or a blanket and then proceeded to go about their daily duties at the facility.”


It was almost 40 minutes before anyone called the police. The resident was dead once the police did arrive.


AHCA cut off funding to Shalom and banned it from taking new residents. When agents showed up for another inspection, the facility was abandoned.


There’s more pressure than ever on problem assisted living facilities, and not just from AHCA.


Governor Rick Scott convened a working group to follow up on the abuse and neglect documented in our investigation.


Members of both the state house and senate have promised to tighten regulations on the industry when they convene in January.


“We needed to fix it yesterday and get the job done,” says Eleanor Sobel is a Democratic state senator.


Sobel’s the vice chair on the senate’s Health Regulation Committee, which just finished its own investigation into the assisted living industry. The committee recommended more than two dozen changes to the law – including the mandatory closure of any facility where caretaker negligence results in death.


Sobel’s been impressed with AHCA’s recent crackdown, “their new behavior is good,” she says, “but it needs to be codified in the law. People have died and people have gotten sick and people have been treated very badly.”


Paul Encin would agree. He watched state inspectors come in an out of Shalom Manor for three years.


During that time AHCA turned up more than fifty different violations. Inspectors documented residents languishing without medication.


One resident lost a third of their weight – AHCA finally took note when the resident weighed just 95 pounds.


From his new home, Encin feels safe enough to tell me what he wanted to say on Christmas morning. When he said, “almost abusive at times…they walk a fine line,” what he really wanted to say was that he’d seen caretakers beat the frail residents with a broomstick.


And even worse, just days after I visited, a mentally ill resident soiled herself. So a caretaker dragged the woman outside by the hair and sprayed her down with a hose.


Two other residents who were at Shalom with Paul saw the same abuses.


The former owner of Shalom Manor did not respond to repeated calls for comment.


“You know, I don’t understand,” said Encin, “how anybody from the state can come to a place like Shalom Manor and investigate thoroughly the whole situation and not see immediately that there are all kinds of inadequacies. I just don’t get it.”


In the two years we looked at for the Neglected to Death investigation, AHCA could have shut down more than 70 facilities due to deaths from abuse and neglect. The agency did little or nothing.


But the case at Shalom was different.


Paul Encin says he’s still in a state of shock. He spent so much time “living in rat holes,” he forgot that assisted living was supposed to actually help people.


Miami Herald reporters Michael Sallah and Carol Marbin Miller contributed to this report. You can see the Miami Herald’s continued ALF coverage at www.miamiherald.com/neglected.

Remembering Andrew

From WLRN | 58:31

20 years ago today (August 24th) Hurricane Andrew turned South Florida upside down. In this hour-long documentary, WLRN uses home videos, archival news footage, 911 calls, personal recollections and even a bureaucratic document from the British consul general in Miami to tell the story of Hurricane Andrew.

The documentary follows two main characters each changed by the storm in their own profound way: Jenny Del Campo, a typical teenager living in southern Dade County and Bryan Norcross, a TV weatherman.

Remembering Andrew

Remembering_andrew_small 20 years ago today (August 24th) Hurricane Andrew turned South Florida upside down. In this hour-long documentary, WLRN uses home videos, archival news footage, 911 calls, personal recollections and even a bureaucratic document from the British consul general in Miami to tell the story of Hurricane Andrew. The documentary follows two main characters each changed by the storm in their own profound way: Jenny Del Campo, a typical teenager living in southern Dade County and Bryan Norcross, a TV weatherman.

The Storm

From Kenny Malone | 09:03

August, 24th 2012 was the 20th anniversary of perhaps the biggest story in South Florida history: Hurricane Andrew. We look back and measure time before Andrew and after. “The Storm” aims to capture the harrowing moments during Andrew. Every second of natural sound in this non-narrated piece is real, recorded 20 years ago.

The Storm
Kenny Malone


NOTE: The Storm uses stereophonic panning effects. Please listen on headphones or a pair of hifi speakers.
August, 24th 2012 was the 20th anniversary of perhaps the biggest story in South Florida history: Hurricane Andrew. We look back and measure time before Andrew and after.
“The Storm” aims to capture the harrowing moments during Andrew.
Every second of natural sound you’ll hear is real, recorded 20 years ago.
Producer Kenny Malone wove together contemporary interviews, archival news footage, 911 calls, home videos and a reading of a diplomatic document to create this experiential radio piece.
The sound and voices featured in "The Storm" come from more than 30 hours of interviews with more than three-dozen Hurricane Andrew survivors as well as more than 24 hours of archival audio and video. Phillip Grice, the British voice you'll hear reading the diplomatic document, was the actual British consul-general in Miami when Hurricane Andrew hit. We tracked him down in Wales.
Among the piece’s voices is now-legendary weatherman Bryan Norcross and then 17-year-old Jenny Del Campo, whose house was destroyed. The piece takes listeners from the early rain bands to the height of the chaos, when Jenny’s tough Cuban father finally admitted defeat.