Friday, August 24, 2012

Hurricane Andrew: Flamingos in the Bathroom

During Hurricane Andrew, flamingos huddled in the bathroom of Miami Metrozoo. Ron Magill along with the staff of the zoo, now called Zoo Miami, rounded up the flamingos and put them in the bathroom for safety. Photo by Ron Magill. Radio Interview

For his entire adult life, Ron Magill has been responsible for taking care of animals.

Twenty years ago, he was the assistant curator at Miami Metrozoo and the man behind the lens for one of the most famous photos to come out of Hurricane Andrew.

In the picture, a bunch of flamingos huddle in a public restroom in the zoo. Hay covers the tiled floor and a white glare bounces off the tiled walls. The flock of birds looks completely out of place between the sinks and bathroom stalls.

The day before Andrew hit, Magill was nailing plywood over the windows at his house. He was also feeding rhinoceroses and rounding up a couple dozen flamingos.

“I remember thinking, gosh, you know, this hurricane better come after this work because I’m working my butt off and it better not be for nothing,” Magill said.

The staff at Metrozoo waited till the very last minute to move the flamingos. It’s a stressful process for the birds. They can easily break a leg. So, the staff wanted to be as certain as possible that the storm was going to hit.

Around 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 23, Ron and a group of his co-workers climbed into the flamingo pond by the zoo’s entrance. They formed a half circle and started advancing on the flamingos.

“That’s when all of the sudden we go: OK, one, two go!” Magill said. “And everybody goes in and just grabs as many flamingos as they can.

“And then we’re handing them up – we’ve got people on the bridge — handing them one by one, and they’re walking them to the bathroom, letting them go in the bathroom, coming back, getting more. A person literally hand walks him, holds him up to his chest, hand walks to the bathroom, opens the bathroom door, lets ‘em go.... It’s the first flamingo that gets in the bathroom that’s kind of freaked out. Oh my God I’m the only one here! It’s just a lot of flapping — and flamingos make a very unattractive sound, RAWG RAWG RAWG…”

After all the flamingos were in the bathroom, Ron looked back and saw a tangled mass of long pink bird legs and necks wedged between the sinks and bathroom stalls.

“Twenty to 30 flamingos just standing there. And they’re all in the corner, hovering in the corner, just kind of looking at you,” Magill said, “and looking at their own reflection in the mirror on the wall over the sink. And you look at their faces and they’re kind of like, what the heck is this?”

The zoo had put the flamingos in the bathroom before, during previous hurricane warnings. But this time, Ron had a camera. He had taken up photography because his research was getting published and he needed photos.

On his days off, Ron would shadow Miami Herald photographers.

“I learned from the guys at the Herald that listen, in journalism, you want to capture a moment, you want to have something that will instill some kind of emotion. And for that reason, I always had a point and shoot camera in my pocket. Always.”

So Magill pulled out his camera.

“I didn’t even look through the view finder,” he said.

And he snapped a shot. The shot, as it would turn out. He had no idea that photo would become an iconic image.

Then, Magill went home to his wife, who was nine months pregnant, in West Kendall . He rode out the storm that would ultimately redefine his community and the zoo he loved.
Read more about Hurricane Andrew Here

WLRN Radio Interview with Ron Magill

Hurricane Andrew: 20 Years

Photo by Patrick Farrell / The Miami Herald
Photo by Joe Rimkus Jr. l / The Miami Herald
The Miami Herald newsroom is abuzz with the sound of preparations for coverage of tropical storm activity in the Caribbean that may affect Haiti, Puerto Rico, Cuba and possibly South Florida. Tropical Storm Issac, which has not developed into a hurricane, only reminds us of the dangers of living along hurricane ally as many commemorate the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew on August 24th. The violent Category 5 fury ripped through South Miami-Dade killing 15 people and destroying over 28,000 homes, 82,000 businesses and leaving 1.4 million homes without electricity for weeks or months.

Photo by C.M. Guerrero / El Nuevo Herald
Photo by Tim Chapman / The Miami Herald
For the anniversary, Miami Herald photojournalist Chuck Fadely produced Then and Now: Scenes from Hurricane Andrew. Miami Herald photographers return to the scene of iconic images they shot twenty years ago during the hurricane and reflect back on what they witnessed. 
Photo by Al Diaz  / The Miami Herald

Photo by Charles Trainor Jr. / The Miami Herald

Photo by Marice Cohn Band / The Miami Herald

Photo by Chuck Fadely / The Miami Herald
Photo by C.W. Griffin  / The Miami Herald
On Saturday, August 25, the Miami Science Museum invite you to Hurricane Andrew Remembrance Day

Peter Andrew Bosh Photo / The Miami Herald
The Miami Science Museum is hosting Hurricane Andrew Remembrance Day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 25 at the museum.

The day’s events will include:

•  A planetarium show, “Remembering Andrew Under the Stars,’’ at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

•  Hurricane Forecasting: Then and Now, a panel discussion, from noon to 12:45 p.m., led by Frank Marks, director of the Hurricane Research Division and Chris Landsea, science and operations officer with the National Hurricane Center.

•  Hurricane Andrew Remembered, from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m., will feature hurricane experts Max Mayfield, former director of the National Hurricane Center, now hurricane consultant on WPLG-ABC 10; Stan Goldenberg, survivor and hurricane researcher at NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division, and Bryan Norcross, former meteorologist with WFOR-CBS 4 and now on The Weather Channel.

•  The Aftermath of Hurricane Andrew from 3 to 3:45 p.m., with Kate Hale, the former director of Miami-Dade Emergency Management, and Richard Ford of the Salvation Army Disaster Relief Team.

•  Theater video presentations: Andrew Specials at 11:20 a.m., 12:50, 2:20 and 3:50 p.m. The program will include television footage covering Andrew before, during and after the storm struck.

Tropical weather briefings at the Magic Planet at 11:45 a.m., 1:15 and 2:45 p.m.; kids’ activity stations where visitors can tell their Andrew stories and write their experiences on cards to be placed on a pinup board.

It’s all free with a paid museum admission. The museum is at 3280 S. Miami Ave. For more information, visit

Chuck Fadely, C.M. Guerrero and Carl Juste prepare for an interview with CBS 4 in Miami on their coverage of Hurricane Andrew 20 years ago. At right is Jose Iglesias.

Miami Herald photojournalist Patrick Farrell is interviewed by Jilda Unruh for CBS 4 about his photographs taken after Hurricane Andrew. 
Miami New Times: Hurricane Andrew at 20: Miami Herald Reporters Remember
Random Pixels: "No one who lived through it will ever forget it."
Newspaper Alum: 20-Year Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew: A Q & A with former Miami Herald executive editor Doug Clifton