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Wed Sep 2, 2020, 06:08 AM

85 Years Ago Today; The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane hits the US - most intense in terms of mbar


Weather Bureau surface weather map of the hurricane moving up the west coast of Florida

The 1935 Labor Day hurricane (formally known as Hurricane Three) was one of the most intense Atlantic hurricanes to make U.S. landfall on record in terms of pressure, and is estimated to be one of the the strongest landfalling Atlantic hurricanes in terms of maximum sustained winds, with winds of up to or exceeding 200 mph. This estimate is based on damage data recorded by NOAA, as official wind reports weren’t collected due to the fact the hurricane destroyed the anemometers at landfall. It was also the most intense Atlantic hurricane on record until Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. The fourth tropical cyclone, third tropical storm, second hurricane, and second major hurricane of the 1935 Atlantic hurricane season, the Labor Day hurricane was the first known Category 5 hurricane on record to strike the contiguous United States.

The hurricane intensified rapidly, passing near Long Key on the evening of Monday, September 2. The region was swept by a massive storm surge as the eye passed over the area. The waters quickly receded after carving new channels connecting the bay with the ocean; however, gale-force winds and high seas persisted into Tuesday, preventing rescue efforts. The storm continued northwestward along the Florida west coast, weakening before its second landfall near Cedar Key, Florida, on September 4.

The compact and intense hurricane caused catastrophic damage in the upper Florida Keys, as a storm surge of approximately 18 to 20 feet (5.5 to 6.1 m) swept over the low-lying islands. The hurricane's strong winds and the surge destroyed nearly all the structures between Tavernier and Marathon. The town of Islamorada was obliterated. Portions of the Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway were severely damaged or destroyed. The hurricane also caused additional damage in northwest Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas.


Three ships ran afoul of the storm. "The Danish motorship Leise Maersk was carried over Alligator Reef and grounded nearly 4 miles beyond, after being totally disabled by the wind and sea, with engine room flooded." This was just offshore of Upper Matecumbe Key. No one died and the ship was salvaged on Sept. 20. "The American tanker Pueblo drifted helplessly in the storm from 2 to 10 pm of September 2; she went out of control near 24°40′N 80°25′W, and was carried completely around the storm center, finding herself in 8 hours about 25 miles northeastward of her original position, and just barely able to claw off Molasses Reef." However, the ship that made the headlines was the American steamship Dixie out of New Orleans, with a crew of 121 and 229 passengers. It ran aground on French Reef, near Key Largo, without loss of life. It was re-floated on September 19 and towed to New York.

Florida East Coast Railway Overseas Railroad relief train derailed near Islamorada, Florida, during the 1935 Labor Day hurricane.

On Upper Matecumbe Key, near Islamorada, an eleven-car evacuation train encountered a powerful storm surge topped by cresting waves. Eleven cars[28] were swept from the tracks, leaving only the locomotive and tender upright and still on the rails. Remarkably, everyone on the train survived.[29] The locomotive and tender were both barged back to Miami several months later.

The hurricane left a path of near-total destruction in the Upper Keys, centered on what is today the village of Islamorada. The eye of the storm passed a few miles to the southwest creating a calm of about 40 minutes duration over Lower Matecumbe and 55 minutes (9:20–10:15 PM) over Long Key. At Camp #3 on Lower Matecumbe the surge arrived near the end of the calm with the wind close behind. Nearly every structure was demolished, and some bridges and railway embankments were washed away. The links—rail, road, and ferry boats—that chained the islands together were broken. The main transportation route linking the Keys to mainland Florida had been a single railroad line, the Florida Overseas Railroad portion of the Florida East Coast Railway. The Islamorada area was devastated, although the hurricane's destructive path was narrower than most tropical cyclones. Its eye was eight miles (13 km.) across and the fiercest winds extended 15 miles (24 km.) off the center, less than 1992's Hurricane Andrew, which was also a relatively small and catastrophic Category 5 hurricane. Craig Key, Long Key, and Upper Matecumbe and Lower Matecumbe Keys suffered the worst. The storm caused wind and flood damage along the Florida panhandle and into Georgia, and significant damage to the Tampa Bay Area. After the third day of the storm corpses swelled and split open in the subtropical heat, according to rescue workers. Public health officials ordered plain wood coffins holding the dead to be stacked and burned in several locations. The National Weather Service estimated 408 deaths from the hurricane. Bodies were recovered as far away as Flamingo and Cape Sable on the southwest tip of the Florida mainland.

The United States Coast Guard and other federal and state agencies organized evacuation and relief efforts. Boats and airplanes carried injured survivors to Miami. The railroad was never rebuilt, but temporary bridges and ferry landings were under construction as soon as materials arrived. On March 29, 1938, the last gap in the Overseas Highway linking Key West to the mainland was completed. The new highway incorporated the roadbed and surviving bridges of the railway.


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Reply 85 Years Ago Today; The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane hits the US - most intense in terms of mbar (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Sep 2 OP
Chainfire Sep 2 #1
John Drake Sep 2 #2
lark Sep 2 #3

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Wed Sep 2, 2020, 08:01 AM

1. My mother lived in South Florida during that hurricane

She, and my Grandparents talked about that storm all of their lives.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Wed Sep 2, 2020, 08:39 AM

2. It sure seems that the 1930's


With hurricanes, dust bowls, many high temperature records that stand today, climate migration from the Midwest to California, the Great Depression, record unemployment, 1000's and 1000's losing their farms and homes, and on the eve of WWll, sounds a lot like 2020.

I sure hope that VP Biden can pull off another FDR.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Wed Sep 2, 2020, 09:37 AM

3. My favorite restaurant in Marathon has a collection of pictures from that storm - very scary.

We were seriously thinking of buying land there in 1980, had looked at some properties and were down to 2 choices when we stopped by Pig Out and I walked around looking closely at the pixs of total devastation. It changed our minds.

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