Fear gripped South Florida as the most ferocious hurricane ever to take aim on a metropolitan area barreled toward the Gold Coast. And in that atmosphere even the best laid plans fell short.
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The alarm was echoed a thousands times across South Florida -- in lines at gas stations, home centers, automatic teller machines, boat ramps.
At places like Home Depot and other lumber outlets, plywood flew out the doors as soon as they opened. By the middle of the afternoon, people were buying $40 sheets of interior paneling, lattice boards, anything they could find to secure their homes.
Elsewhere, people tried to prepare for Andrew`s aftermath by grabbing as much cash as they could. Lines formed 40 to 50 people deep at some automatic teller machines.
``I took my daughter`s baby-sitting money with me last night to shop,`` said Larry Sherman, 30th in line at a Coral Springs teller machine on University Drive. ``I`ve never seen a line like this. You don`t even know if there will be any money left when you get up there.``
Most machines ran out of money.
Some homeless people tried to take shelter at the Salvation Army in Fort Lauderdale. They found it boarded up and empty. Salvation Army officials said the shelter was evacuated because it was east of Interstate 95, in a possible flood zone.
As drivers fled South Florida along Florida`s Turnpike on Sunday morning, traffic backed up for long stretches while workers dutifully collected tolls. Then, shortly after noon, Gov. Lawton Chiles waived tolls and let the traffic move freely.
``Now everything is going smooth and orderly -- busy, but smooth,`` Capt. Ray Wess of the Florida Highway Patrol said on Sunday afternoon. ``We had some backups. Now traffic is pretty solid, but at least it`s moving.``
By 3 p.m., traffic was moving smoothly on major highways, except for Florida`s Turnpike, where northbound traffic was bumper-to-bumper from Commercial Boulevard to West Palm Beach.
Traffic on I-95, I-75 and Alligator Alley/I-75 was moving smoothly, Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Richard Glass said. But on I-95, smooth meant slow, too.
``It`s pretty much bumper-to-bumper northbound from Commercial Boulevard to Palm Beach,`` Glass said.
The Coast Guard and Florida Marine Patrol said boaters who did not get their vessels moved before the bridges were locked down were securing them the best they could.
``It`s probably panic city,`` Florida Marine Patrol Lt. Gene Morgan said. ``With the bridges down, there`s no place for them to go. They`re just going to have to secure them where they are and try to ride out the storm.``
Another problem: construction sites. Few appeared secure on Sunday as the storm approached.
For instance, at the Broward County Courthouse addition in Fort Lauderdale, concrete blocks and other construction materials stood in piles on the upper levels.
Along the I-95 construction corridor, workers removed barricades, debris and wood, but heavy equipment was left behind. The booms on gigantic cranes were lowered to the ground and secured as best they could be.
Damage from the hurricane could destroy much of the work done so far on the $82 million I-95 project, which will widen the interstate between Davie and Sistrunk boulevards and build a new interchange at Davie Boulevard.
Marie Myer, of Lake Worth, expected problems in advance of Hurricane Andrew. Her answer was to pray at Saint Ambrose Catholic Church in Deerfield Beach that the storm would dissipate or miss Florida.
``I just don`t want to see a hurricane, but it is in the hands of God,`` she said. ``You can quote this weatherman or you can quote that weatherman. Only God knows what will happen.``
As the day wore on, people did their best to find a place to hide.
The first to arrive at the Coral Springs High School shelter was Leonard White of Margate. He said police at his mobile home park near State Road 7 told residents to evacuate.
Carrying a suitcase and two large throw pillows, he was greeted by Coral Springs police, Civil Air Patrol cadets and others. Red Cross shelter Manager Rolf Wienbarg said he had room for as many as 5,000 evacuees at the two-story school. He figured as many as 3,000 could be there by nightfall.
``Tonight will be a long one,`` he said.
Staff Writers Kathleen Kernicky, Alan Cherry, Jeffrey Rubin, Kim Margolis, Joanne Cavanaugh and Melinda Donnelly contributed to this report.