Florida officials struggling with the devastatation wrought by Hurricane Andrew estimate that 63,000 homes have been destroyed. Before this number is lost in a welter of statistics, Marylanders should contemplate what it means.
Even if the Florida definition of "destroyed" is exaggerated, even if it is a haven for mobile homes vulnerable to nature's vicissitudes, Andrew's toll in Florida is equal to the total detached housing of Dundalk, Essex, Perry Hall, White Marsh, Reisterstown, Catonsville, Middle River and Pikesville. This estimate, from the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, indicates that a catastrophe comparable to the Florida disaster would wipe out almost a quarter of Baltimore County's 283,000 houses.
Such a comparison, however fanciful, should make us all aware that hurricanes, tornadoes and even earthquakes are not always occurrences that happen somewhere else. Not since the big one of 1933 has Maryland experienced a Category 4 hurricane of the kind that swept across southern Florida. Even Hurricane Agnes of a decade ago was a Category 1 affair notable more for the flood waters it dumped than any destructive winds it generated.