A Pipe Burst In My Florida Condominium, Who Is Responsible?February 7, 2020
Florida has seen many deadly hurricanes throughout history, but some are worse than others. This article will cover the top three deadliest Florida hurricanes ever recorded. So let’s go down memory lane and look back at these natural disasters the state was unable to avoid.
The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane
“He will die too, himself, perhaps even without a hurricane warning, but maybe it will be an easy death, that’s the best you get, so that you do not have to hang onto something until you can’t hang on, until your fingers won’t hold on, and it is dark. And the wind makes, a noise like a locomotive passing, with a shriek on top of that, because the wind has a scream exactly as it has in books, and then the fill goes and the high wall of water rolls you over and over and then, whatever it is, you get it and we find you, now of no importance, stinking in the mangroves.
You’re dead now, brother, but who left you there in hurricane months on the Keys, where a thousand men died before you in the hurricane months when they were building the road that’s now washed out?”
Ernest Hemingway wrote this passage to express his anguish over one of the deadliest Florida hurricanes in history.
In the early 1900s, there was no Doppler radar, no Weather Channel reporters — only a few ships at sea and reports from islands in the Caribbean. Lack of information about the intensity of hurricanes led to the death of over 400 people in September of 1935:
The Weather Bureau sent out advisories stating that this was just one of the tropical storms, not hurricanes in Florida, and it would be nothing more than a rainmaker that would strike Havana, not the Keys.
On Labor Day, an American pilot named Len Povey was hired by a Cuban businessman to fly a small biplane over the Straits of Florida and check out the hurricane. Povey spotted the storm far north of the weather bureau’s track. It was heading to the Keys.
In the late summer of 1935, the citizens of the Florida Keys were in the depths of the Great Depression. Key West, once a prosperous port city, had declared bankruptcy. Residents were struggling to live on an average monthly income of $7.
The city needed a plan to survive the impact of the recent hurricanes in Florida, so they decided to rehab the old buildings and re-create Key West as a tourist destination as part of their water damage restoration efforts.
As part of a work program, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration stationed over 600 WW1 veterans on the Keys, members of the Bonus Army. The vets were paid $30 a month plus free room and board to come to the Keys and build the bridges and roads needed to support the Key West plan.
In total, 292 would perish during that Florida hurricane.
On Labor Day of 1935, the first Category 5 storm in recorded history struck the United States. Most of the damage from the storm occurred in the Florida Keys. A 40-mile-wide path of destruction ran from just south of Key Largo to just north of Marathon. The Category 5 winds destroyed most of the man-made structures on the island. In addition, the islands were covered with a 15-20-foot storm surge.
On Matacumbe Key, for example, every building and tree was destroyed. In addition, the Florida East Coast Railroad tracks were damaged, removing the main transportation route linking the Keys to the mainland.
People driving to the Keys today can see portions of the Overseas Railway bridges rising from the water, disconnected from the land, and leading nowhere. It’s because the tracks were never rebuilt.
The 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane
The second deadliest hurricane in the United States, the Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928, killed an estimated 2,500 people in Florida. Most were drowned in storm surge water and floods pouring over Lake Okeechobee.
On Sunday, September 16, the eye of this hurricane passed over West Palm Beach and, hours later, the northern part of Lake Okeechobee. The storm’s counterclockwise Category 4 winds forced billions of gallons of water up against the weak 6 to 8-foot-high levee on the southeast part of the lake, and the lake water began flowing over the levee.
Thousands of people drowned while this hurricane was hitting Florida, as water several feet deep spread over an area approximately 6 miles deep and 75 miles long around the south end of the lake. Many victims were migrant workers on local farms. They had received little and even no warning of the impending storm.
The 1919 Florida Keys Hurricane struck Havana, Cuba, two days earlier on September 8. While the storm was raging, an unidentified ship was seen off the harbor entrance signaling for a pilot, but the harbor was closed, and the ship was notified it could not enter. The ship acknowledged and signaled it would move away from shore to ride out the storm.
The SS Valbanera, a 400-foot long steamer traveling from Spain, would not be seen for another four days when a US Navy submarine chaser spotted a submerged wreck with just the masts above the water 45 miles west of Key West.
The ship was found with all the doors closed, all the windows and portholes shut, and all the lifeboats still on their davits, indicating the captain closed the ship down amid this Florida hurricane to weather the storm. But, unfortunately, it also trapped the estimated 488 passengers and crew members inside. No survivors or bodies were ever found.
The SS Valbanera called Santiago de Cuba in southeastern Cuba two days before sinking. Here, 750 passengers disembarked the ship to continue the journey by land, despite having paid to go to Havana. They cited forecasted bad weather as their reason.
Today, we can only hope that nothing similar to these deadliest Florida hurricanes happens again. But, unfortunately, natural disasters like these are inevitable, causing water damage to properties. That’s why United Restoration is here. Our team of experts can help you restore your properties after a hurricane. Contact us now to know more.