Hurricane Andrew legacy: A baby boom in Florida

May 27, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

No lights. No air conditioning. Husbands and wives cooped up together for days.

What to do?

Hundreds of Floridians found something to pass the time after Hurricane Andrew. And nine months later, Broward County is greeting Andrew's legacy: a baby boom.

Around the county, many hospitals are reporting a surge in births in May, nine months after the storm.

While some of the boom stems from the area's expected population growth, many of the extra births are to families who have moved from hard-hit Dade County.

Sean Ammon, 7 pounds, 14 ounces, came into the world about 8 a.m. Monday -- exactly nine months after Andrew.

"He's definitely a hurricane baby," said his mother, Karen Ammon, 26. Sean is her third child.

Ms. Ammon and her husband were living at Homestead Air Force Base when Andrew struck Aug. 24.

They evacuated to her husband's parents' house in Venice, Fla., then spent three weeks in a Hollywood, Fla., hotel.

They returned to find their home trashed, the base blown away. Ms. Ammon had just finished nursing her 14-month-old son, Patrick, and was planning to visit the doctor to get birth control pills, she said.

But the doctor's office was gone.

"I imagine [that] during labor there are some women cursing Hurricane Andrew instead of their husbands," Ms. Ammon said.

Ms. Ammon, who moved to Coral Springs, Fla., in October, had her baby at HCA Northwest Regional Hospital in Margate, Fla.

"The past two weeks have been booming," said hospital spokeswoman Janet Friedman. "We have doubled the number of births we had last May, and the month isn't even over."

In the past week, Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has delivered 70 babies, and four more women were in labor Monday afternoon, said hospital spokesman Chuck Malkus.

"That's amazing for us," Mr. Malkus said.

At Westside Regional Medical Center in Plantation, Fla., the number of births is up 25 percent for May compared with the same period a year ago, said spokeswoman Susan Koczak.

History tells us to expect increases in conceptions during major disasters, said Dr. Mark Grenitz, an obstetrician who practices in Plantation.

"Major snowstorms, blackouts, anything that shuts business down," Dr. Grenitz said.

"If you're stuck at home and there's nothing else to do, these kind of things do happen."

Baptist Hospital of Miami, which serves the south Dade County area, expected a post-hurricane baby boom, but the number of births declined instead, said spokeswoman Adrienne Sylver.

"We think many people moved out of south Dade," Ms. Sylver said.

Hurricane Andrew proved to be lucky for Sharon Tatum and her husband, Mark.

The Tatums have two girls, 6-year-old Tiffany and 4-year-old Kristin.

For three months before Andrew, the couple had been trying to have a boy. They bought a book that had a schedule to follow for conceiving a boy. Nothing happened.

When the hurricane hit, they boarded up their Fort Lauderdale home and huddled inside, Ms. Tatum said.

They were without electricity for 48 hours.

"We didn't pay any attention to the schedule," she said.

That didn't seem to matter around 1 a.m. Saturday morning, when Ms. Tatum gave birth to 8-pound, 11-ounce Mark Carlton Tatum II.

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