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Somewhere between heaven and hell, there's 145th Terrace

By
ELLEN BECK

MIAMI -- Between the hell Hurricane Andrew left in Homestead and the relative heaven in north Dade County, which was spared, is the upscale neighborhood of 145th Terrace -- battered and bruised, but not broken.

Nestled among the mango trees, palms and pines the $250,000 and up houses signified the South Florida good life.

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The neighborhood was quiet, there was little traffic. A passel of cats each morning made the rounds, claiming the terrace as their turf before retreating to one house where they would sleep away the heat of the day in a dark, cool garage.

But the neighborhood was less than a mile from the ocean and when Hurricane Andrew made its intentions for South Florida known, residents were told to get out.

Some fled, some stayed. How well each fared depended on the house and whether it was protected by hurricane shutters. Most trees were destroyed and were heaped in tall piles, browning in the hot sun.

People were shocked. After Andrew they saw houses they had never seen before because they were built behind a heavy growth of trees. Power lines were down and two weeks after the storm the neighborhood still had no electricity or telephone service.

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Many homes had roof damage, all lost their aluminum and mesh swimming pool enclosures. Some sustained interior damage when doors blew in.

'I stayed in this house under protest,' said Hal Templeton. 'I thought that this area, because of its proximity to the bay, would be one of the hardest hit and I wanted to go further inland. But my wife and daughter talked me into staying here.

'Thank God they did because when at 4 a.m. in the morning I heard the storm and got up. I looked around and saw three or four sets of sliding glass doors and they were waving in the breeze. And because I was here I was able to put lawn furniture, mats and furniture up against the doors and I think that probably saved me $150,000 damage in the house,' he said.

The Templetons lost the pool enclosure, roof tiles, the garage door and storm shutters. Some water got in under the doors and through the roof. They will have to repaint and repair, but consider themselves fortunate.

'I don't mean to make light of it but when I go down and look at other places I feel that we in this area were blessed,' Templeton said.

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He said his house withstood the storm well because it was constructed 22 years ago when construction standards were more strict.

'When we first moved down here I wanted to build a two story house and my builder wouldn't build one,' he said.

Templeton said during the worst of the hurricane, from 4 a.m. to dawn, he was too busy to think about what he was doing or if the house would survive.

'In retrospect, when I was protecting the windows, all that had to happen was for a tile or debris to break the window and I would have been decapitated. It was a reflex action really,' he said.

Templeton said since the storm the problem has been the lack of power and air conditioning and, once the cleanup he could do by himself was finished, boredom.

'It is so boring. You can't read (at night), you can't play solitaire, you can't do much of anything,' he said.

Next door, Betty and Don Noe's house sits almost within view of a Florida Power & Light Co. plant but they're waiting for power too. They did take a generator out of their damaged recreational vehicle and hook it up to the refrigerator.

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The pool enclosure is gone, along with almost all of the landscaping, which included orange, lemon and grapefruit trees. One bedroom was damaged when a hurricane shutter was punctured by a roof tile and the window broke.

One source of amusement was a small concrete holstein cow which stood in the back yard as a reminder of their home state of Wisconsin. It never moved an inch during the hurricane.

'We had friends who had red snapper in their front yard and shrimp in their pool,' Betty Noe said. 'It tore the wallpaper off the walls. They lost everything.'

Betty Noe and her children, Matthew, 8, and Alan, 5, evacuated and stayed with friends in Orlando. Don Noe, a meteorologist at a Miami television station, rode out the hurricane at work.

They returned three days after Andrew. She said the neighborhood was difficult to recognize and she had trouble finding it.

Across the street one neighbor and his wife were holding in a front door during the storm and the wind blew the door in and broke the woman's arm.

Another family evacuated to a Kendall neighborhood and a house that was destroyed. They spent two hours of the storm in a car inside of a garage. Meanwhile their house on 145th Terrace sustained some damage but was liveable.

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Outside of the neighborhood, just down the block, Andrew's wrath was visible as house after house was destroyed or severely damaged.

The headquarters of Burger King, which sits right on the ocean, was almost destroyed. But, for the first time it was visible from the road as the thick grove of trees which had shrouded it in privacy were downed.

Down the block an 80-foot tug boat was swept 50 yards by the storm surge up onto land where it was lodged between two buildings.

'This is what you see, block after block after block,' Betty Noe said. 'Had the storm surge been any worse, we would have had flooding.' Their house is at 12 feet above sea level, which helped to keep it dry.

Don Noe said one annoying problem was aluminum looters. They came by to take the aluminum structures that once held together pool enclosures and sold the metal for recycling. Since the storm, the glut of aluminum at recycling centers has sent the price plunging from 47 cents per pound to 20 cents per pound.

Don Noe after awhile stopped chasing aluminum looters away. He said he would have to get rid of the debris at some point anyway. Templeton said he chased away several with a gun and then gave up as well.

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