Thursday, August 18, 2016

THE FORGOTTEN STORM

Before reading....please note the following:  The Florida Hurricane Season for 2016 begins June 1 and ends November 30. 

Ol' US  - As you may or may not know, both of us are original Floridians.  Every year about this time we get that uneasy feeling if someone brings up hurricanes.  Ask someone who has been through a hurricane and they all have quite a story to tell.  The reason for this blog is to provide a true story that happened in September, 1928, known as the Okeechobee Hurricane (also known as San Felipe Segundo Hurricane), a storm that killed over 2,500 people - most likely many more.

The storm system developed as a tropical depression off the shore of the west coast of Africa.  When the storm intensified and hit Guadalupe on September 12 the storm brought great destruction and 1,200 deaths.  The storm continued to build intensity and on September 13, now a Category 5, peaked with sustained winds of 160 mph, hitting Puerto Rico and was now recorded as a tropical cyclone, the first ever in this part of the world.

Lake Okeechobee, FL
Early on September 17 the less intense storm hit West Palm Beach with 145 mph winds.  The severest damage was around Lake Okeechobee.  The storm surge caused water to pour out of the southern edge of the lake, flooding hundreds of miles as high as 20 feet above ground, somewhat causing a tsunami effect.

Lake Okeechobee, FL
Lake Okeechobee, FL
At least 2,500 people drowned in the cities of Belle Glade, Canal Point, Chosen, Pahokee and South Bay.  Some said several generations of families were gone within hours.  Damage in these areas was estimated to be over $25 million (In today's dollars, the amount would be in excess of $341 million).  In addition, records show 1,278 livestock and 47,389 poultry were killed.  The storm also destroyed what may have been the largest "citrus crop in the history of the industry".  Note this storm happened one year before the stock market crash which even put this area in more economic turmoil.
Port Mayaca Lock - Lake Okeechobee, FL
Most survivors and bodies were washed out into the Everglades and many were never found.  About 75% of the fatalities were migrant workers.  The official death count was revised in the 90's to reflect at least 2,500 deaths.  
Canal Point Lock, Lake Okeechobee, FL
A mass grave and memorial is at Port Mayaca Cemetery east of Port Mayaca and contains the bodies of 1600 victims of the hurricane.  The storm killed half the population of Palm Beach County at that time.  As in most catastrophes of this magnitude there were many changes made afterwards.  There were many victims as a result of this event, not just the storm victims.

Historical Marker commemorating the Hurricane of 1928 - Mass Burial Site -
Port Mayaca Cemetery
Port Mayaca Cemetery Memorial - Port Mayaca, FL
Overall, from the time this storm formed on September 6 and dissipated on September 20, over $100 million in damages and at least 4,079 deaths, probably more.  Today, fishermen still report finding skeletons in Lake Okeechobee.

Just remember, it only takes one storm to change your entire life.  The point is take the warnings seriously and be vigilant about your preparations.


Post a Comment