While Andrew roared across Turkey Point, site of Florida Power & Lights nuclear power plant on Biscayne Bay, maintenance electrician Danny Janis napped one floor below the control room.
The place was so well built we never heard or felt anything, said Janis, part of a volunteer crew assembled for post-storm repairs. We had standby generators so we never lost power or air-conditioning.
That made stepping outside the next morning all the more surreal. It was pretty much like holy s---, said Janis, who now lives in Rome, Ga. We had no concept of what was going on out there.
The nuclear plant, he said, felt isolated from the world. Phone lines were down. There was no TV reception and only sporadic radio chatter. Trees blocking the single access road would take two days to clear. Shreds of sheet metal and insulation hung everywhere. A smoke stack for the adjacent oil-fired plant had a gaping crack and later had to be demolished.
Federal regulators, in a report the following year, concluded there was never a risk of radiation release from the two reactors, which had been powered down in preparation for the storm, but there was serious damage to surrounding support buildings, ducts, pipes and a water tank for fire-fighting.
Janis recalls an Andrew irony: Though there was plenty of power on site, there was none where workers needed it most that first day to power the vending machines.
Still, even decades later, Janis marvels at what he calls FPLs extraordinary efforts to repair the plant and its workers shattered lives, starting with the cargo aboard one of the first company choppers to land: some 3,000 Subway sandwiches.
Hurricane Andrew 20 years later
- The Intro
- The Captain
- The Emergency Manager
- In Country Walk
- At Turkey Point
- Stories of comfort
- Broward bound
- The Weatherman